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 KlobucharManchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation MORE (D-Minn.) and Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE (D-Del.). Klobuchar and Coons, along with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenThe job of shielding journalists is not finished Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire 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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPress: Inmates have taken over the asylum 58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill 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 PelosiFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium MORE (D-Calif.) and former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaSimone Biles takes herself out of fifth Olympic event Michelle Obama to Simone Biles: 'We are proud of you and we are rooting for you' Obama setting up big bash to celebrate his 60th 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.