To safeguard our elections, Democrats and Republicans must work together
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented our country with significant challenges that demand bipartisan cooperation and quick, efficient responses at every level of government. As public officials, we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe, get support to those who need it most, and help restore our economy. We’re also committed to working together to ensure that every eligible voter can safely cast their ballot this fall.

The risks are clear. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has warned that a second wave of the pandemic is not only likely, but could be more devastating than what we are currently facing. A second spike in the fall and winter would mirror the seasonality of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. We need to use the time we have between now and November to prepare our country to safely, efficiently conduct elections during a COVID-19 outbreak. That means we need to give elections officials the tools they need to ensure access for every eligible voter, while also protecting everyone’s health and well-being. Already this primary season, Democratic and Republican elections officials and state lawmakers have had to make tough choices and navigate uncharted territory in order to figure out how to carry out primary elections, and one thing is clear: states need more support from the federal government.

Many states are looking to expand vote-by-mail. Whether it’s rural communities in Colorado or urban communities in Utah, elections officials have made vote-by-mail work for everyone, regardless of their political party. Many states also realize that some eligible voters will need or want to be able to cast ballots in person, given that mail ballots can’t reach everyone, including voters who have moved or been displaced by outbreaks, voters who don’t have a fixed address, voters on many Native American reservations, and voters who simply want to physically cast their ballot.

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In the past, it has taken years to implement these kinds of election reforms for all voters, but right now, states only have a matter of months to get ready for November. We’re hearing from elections officials across the country – in red, blue, and purple states – that they need to invest resources soon to make these changes a reality.

This isn’t a partisan issue. That’s why we, a Democrat and a Republican, are pushing for Congress to step up and help every state get the resources they need to expand early voting and absentee ballot access, or move to vote-by-mail. Congress has already appropriated $400 million to aid state elections as part of our third stimulus package, but we’ve heard from state officials that their shares of this money are fractions of what it will cost to be ready for November. We’re pushing to include more funding and direction in the fourth stimulus package, so states can get the help they need and give every American a safe way to vote this fall.

We want to be clear: We are not advocating for a federal takeover of state-run elections. In fact, we’re advocating for the opposite: federal support to help states continue to run their own elections safely and efficiently.

The American people have faced this crisis with bravery, generosity, and ingenuity. Folks are delivering food and medicine to their neighbors; they’re sewing face masks and sending protective equipment to brave health care professionals; and, they’re retooling factories to help produce all kinds of necessary items, from hand sanitizer to ventilators. Thousands of Americans are volunteering with their local medical reserves corps to help with testing and logistics and relieve pressure on hospitals. That’s in addition to the workers and companies on the front lines that meet our basic needs, including grocers who keep us fed, phone and Internet lines that keep us connected, and first responders who keep us safe.

We need to start thinking about our local elections officials the same way. After all, it’s our neighbors who serve as clerks at the township and county level and volunteer to make our elections happen, and it’s our own elderly and immunocompromised friends and loved ones who are at most risk at a crowded polling place. Organizations like WeCanVote.US are providing nonpartisan information about how to vote safely and helping to connect volunteers with opportunities to help ensure safe, secure elections in their own communities.

Americans have risen to challenges like this before — and we’ll do it again. We’ve held elections during a Civil War and two World Wars, and during crises big and small. Our fundamental right to vote is part of what defines us as Americans, and we’re committed to keeping our democracy on track.

Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role MORE is the junior senator for Delaware and Kim Wyman is secretary of state for Washington.