Report finds states need millions more in federal funding to hold elections this year
Five key states will need millions more in federal funding in order to move forward with this year’s elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research released Thursday found.
According to a report spearheaded by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, current federal election funds will cover less than 20 percent of the costs required for mail-in voting and other election changes in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Missouri.
The report, which was also put together by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the R Street Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, examined the impact of the $400 million in election funds sent to states as part of last month’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill.
Georgia faces the biggest pitfall in funding, with the report finding that the $10.8 million the state received will only address around 10 percent of its election needs. This is primarily because mail-in voting has been historically low in the state, and now the state is funding the mailing of absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter.
The more than $11 million given to Michigan only covers 12 percent of their estimated election costs this year, while the $7.6 million Missouri received will only cover up to 13 percent of costs.
Ohio and Pennsylvania will fare slightly better, with the funding each state received able to cover between 16 and 18 percent of estimated election costs.
Areas where more funds are needed include securing online election systems, sending out and processing mail-in ballots, and educating the public about changes to elections.
While states are constitutionally in charge of running elections, the report’s authors argued that states do not have the money to address election needs on their own, with many facing serious financial challenges amid the pandemic.
Beyond state-level funding, the report concluded that local governments, not states, will be burdened with 90 percent of the estimated costs needed to ensure Americans can vote in primaries and general elections this year.
“Without funding from the federal government, there is little chance that state and local governments can shoulder the financial burden,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, nearly every state and local government in the country faces severe budget challenges this year.”
The report’s authors argued that “problems” during recent primaries could “increase dramatically” without the funds.
Primaries have been postponed in many states, and in Wisconsin, dozens of coronavirus cases have been traced to the state’s recent primary in which many voters were forced to cast their ballots in-person.
The groups involved in the report have all pushed in recent weeks for Congress to send states more funding for mail-in ballots. Their goal is for Congress to eventually send states a total of $4 billion in election funding.
The next coronavirus stimulus bill is expected to address numerous state and local issues, with Democrats including Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) leading efforts to get the election funds added in.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former first lady Michelle Obama have been among those also throwing their support behind increased mail-in voting efforts.
But many Republicans, including President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), have expressed opposition to increased mail-in voting, citing concerns that it may hurt Republicans’ chances of getting elected.
Political action groups have added their weight to pressure on Republicans to back the funding. Stand Up America announced Thursday that it was launching a campaign to urge more than 75,000 constituents of congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to demand their representatives support mail-in voting.
The report’s authors argued that the security of elections is paramount.
“The federal government has the resources to ensure that state and local governments can run free, fair, and safe elections this fall,” the authors wrote. “We urge them to do so as soon as possible.”
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