House Democrats push hard for mail-in voting funds

The Democratic chairs of key House committees on Friday called on Congress to send $4 billion to states to allow for mail-in voting and other efforts to conduct elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the right to vote “may be in jeopardy” without action. 

House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), House Administration subcommittee on Elections Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) jointly criticized Congress for not doing enough to prevent barriers to vote this year. 

“Without decisive action by Congress, the coronavirus crisis may exacerbate dangerous impediments for voters, including closed or restricted access to polling places and public health restrictions that deter voter participation — all of which could result in depressed voter turnout that undermines the will of the American people and degrades confidence in our elections,” the House members said in a joint statement. 

The coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last month included $400 million to assist states conduct elections during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The amount was far lower than the $4 billion proposed in the House version of that bill rolled out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and supported by Lofgren. The House version would also have imposed requirements on states on how to use the funds, including expanding early in-person voting and ensuring every voter had the ability to vote by mail.

The version ultimately signed into law was the Senate version, which did not include any requirements on how the funds could be used, and required states to match the funding by 20 percent. The House Democratic leaders on Friday strongly criticized this funding match.

“These funds must be free from burdensome matching requirements that prevent states from quickly deploying resources where they are urgently needed,” the House Democrats said. “Vote-by-mail and early voting options are commonsense and tested solutions that will both protect public health and the fundamental American right to vote.”

While Democrats have largely supported voting remotely, many Republicans have pushed back against the idea of mandating states to move to vote-by-mail, citing concerns around voter fraud, federalizing elections, and hurting Republican election chances. 

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Despite this pushback, vote-by-mail has been increasingly in the spotlight following delayed primary elections across the nation. 

Secretaries of state, including some Republicans, have pushed for states to be given more funding to address election challenges, and have been joined in recent days in this push by former first lady Michelle Obama and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

In addition, progressive organizations have joined together to push Congress to give states more mail-in voting funds, including Stand Up America, which on Thursday alone drove 20,000 constituent calls to lawmakers about the issue. 

The Wisconsin primary election this month in particular spurred the national conversation about voting remotely, after videos of voters lined up around the block for hours emerged after a last-minute legal wrangle prevented the governor from delaying the election.

The House Democrats on Friday pointed to Wisconsin as an example of why changes needed to be made to elections.  

“This pandemic does not discriminate by political party or ideology,” the members said. “An election that forces voters to choose between protecting their health and casting their ballots is not a free and fair election.”

Tags Carolyn Maloney Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Marcia Fudge Michelle Obama Nancy Pelosi Stephen Lynch Zoe Lofgren
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