More than 800 public health experts call on Congress to fund mail-in voting

More than 800 public health experts call on Congress to fund mail-in voting
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A group of more than 800 public health experts on Tuesday called on Congress to fund mail-in voting amid rising concerns about in-person voting related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The experts — made up of professors, phycologists and doctors led by the Center for American Progress — sent a letter to the House and Senate asking that states be given $4 billion to address moving to mail-in voting. 

These funds would cover the mailing and printing of ballots, securing ballot request systems and staffing, among other issues. 

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“In order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and protect the public health at the same time, it is incumbent on our leaders to prepare for a Presidential election by mail, in which ballots are sent to all registered voters, to allow them to vote from home and ensure their health and safety in the event of a new outbreak of SARS-CoV-2,” the public health experts wrote. 

The experts used the recent Wisconsin primary elections as an example of how COVID-19 can spread if Americans are forced to vote in-person, after dozens of individuals there tested positive for the coronavirus in the weeks since the election. 

“Many of us in public health looked on with horror as thousands of people in Wisconsin were forced to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying home to protect themselves from exposure to the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2,” the group wrote. “Those choosing the former were imperiling their own lives by voting in person that day.”

Congress already appropriated $400 million for states to address election concerns during the pandemic as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law in March. These funds were on top of millions already sent to the states to boost election security by Congress in December. 

But the public health experts said Tuesday that these funds were not enough, pointing to a study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice that states would need $4 billion to successfully put on elections this year. 

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The group of experts included professors from dozens of academic institutions, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and Brown universities, along with psychologists from across the country and doctors within multiple health care systems or hospitals. 

The letter was rolled out during a press call on mail-in voting that featured Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHouse committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (D-Minn.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Thomas Isett Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Dr. Kate Broderick Making vulnerable children a priority in the pandemic response MORE (D-Del.). Klobuchar and Coons, along with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (D-Ore.), have led efforts in the Senate over the past two months to fund mail-in voting.

“As more than 800 health officials say in their letter, we have to think about public health and safety, no one should be forced to choose between their right to vote and their health,” Coons said during the call. 

Coons serves as the top Democrat on the Senate subcommittee tasked with election funding. He said past debates around sending states election funding have been “contentious,” and that it had been difficult to secure Republican support. 

Many Republicans, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDon't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol GOP leader wants to make rapid testing available at Capitol MORE (R-Calif.), have voiced opposition to mail-in voting, citing concerns around voter fraud and that it could hurt Republican election chances. 

But Klobuchar said that support for mail-in voting from leaders including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Trump says he's considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax Trump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread MORE (D-Calif.) and former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObamas discuss pandemic, voting, anxiety and community in new podcast The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Brawls on Capitol Hill on Barr and COVID-19 The Obamas' production company fetches 7 Emmy nominations MORE, who have both backed the effort, may sway Republicans to back including the funds in future coronavirus stimulus packages. 

“I just think that it will be very, very hard in the end, with Speaker Pelosi leading the way, for our Republican colleagues to vote down a bill,” Klobuchar said.