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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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.) and Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Biden rolls out national security team Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (D-Del.). Klobuchar and Coons, along with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans 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 TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight 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 PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) and former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Obama sold record-breaking 1.7 million copies of memoir in first week Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk 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.