Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives
© Greg Nash

Voters in three states, Arizona, Florida and Illinois, went to the polls Tuesday to vote in primary elections. Two other states, Georgia and Louisiana, delayed their elections and Ohio’s governor barred Tuesday’s election from going forward. In the midst of a growing COVID-19 outbreak, how do we exercise our right to vote while keeping voters, poll workers, and the rest of us safe? We vote from home.

Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy and we must do everything we can to protect them. Yet, the White House is now recommending that people do not gather in groups of 10 or more and the CDC tells us that we should all stay six feet apart. These are important measures to flatten the curve and keep our health care system from being overloaded as we try to head off a serious shortage of hospital beds and ventilators in the not too distant future.

Following public health recommendations could mean delaying more elections, and obviously, in the near term the pandemic is likely to continue to spread. With the number of novel coronavirus cases mounting daily, it’s hard to imagine that there will be a great time in the near future to reschedule.

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In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate will be 65 or older. And, most of our poll workers are over 60. These are the groups most at risk of serious complications or even death, if they contract COVID-19.

People should not have to put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk to cast their vote. And they don’t have to. Proponents of vote at home have been shouting from the rooftops for decades that voting from home allows all of us, and especially the most vulnerable among us, to cast our votes no matter how difficult it is for us to get to the polls. Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii all successfully hold their elections entirely by mail. California also permits extensive voting at home.

You may have heard that we have an important election coming up in November. And nearly half the states have presidential primaries scheduled between now and then. We must act now so that people can safely go to the polls. That’s why Congress must immediately pass legislation to allow people to vote at home.

Fortunately, last week Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Dow falls more than 900 points amid fears of new COVID-19 restrictions | Democrats press Trump Org. about president's Chinese bank account | Boeing plans thousands of additional job cuts Democrats press Trump Organization about president's Chinese bank account Plaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation MORE (D-Ore.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTrump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Start focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-Minn.), as well as Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerRestaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities MORE (D-Ore.), Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Democrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit Democrats say affordable housing would be a top priority in a Biden administration MORE (D-Wash.), and Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act COVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates MORE (D-Md.) introduced legislation that will allow people to vote at home in the event of widespread quarantines, other COVID-19-related emergencies, or natural disasters. This legislation authorizes $500 million in grants to states to cover postage and related costs. As Congress moves its coronavirus response packages forward, vote at home should be part of the essential relief provided to the American public.

In the midst of a pandemic, vote at home is clearly the answer to upholding the basic democratic value of the right to vote. This solution will protect both the right to vote and our public health--a win-win that saves our democracy and saves lives.

Liz Watson is the executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. She is the former labor policy director of the House Education and Labor Committee and a former Democratic nominee for Congress in Indiana’s 9th District.