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Warren warns coronavirus 'poses a threat to free and fair elections'

Warren warns coronavirus 'poses a threat to free and fair elections'
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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.) on Monday warned that the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to “free and fair elections,” as experts cautioned that states are running out of time to prepare to hold elections during the crisis. 

“Coronavirus poses a threat to free and fair elections. But we can fix that,” Warren tweeted. “We need vote by mail. We need online and same-day registration. We need early voting and extended voting hours. We need real money for governments to administer elections safely.”

Warren voiced her concerns in response to a New York Times Magazine report that explored the question of whether Americans could be disenfranchised by the pandemic. The article highlighted the recent Wisconsin primary election, when residents were forced to vote in-person. Dozens of coronavirus cases tied to election day have been reported in the weeks since. 

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Warren released a plan on the day of the Wisconsin primary on how to secure voting during COVID-19, advocating for states to send an absentee ballot to every eligible American voter, and that Congress give $4 billion to states for elections. 

“The task of protecting our democracy has never been more vital,” Warren wrote in the plan. “Congress must act to protect our upcoming elections, keep voters and poll workers safe, and safeguard our electoral institutions for the long haul.”

The question of how to safely and securely hold elections during the COVID-19 crisis has become heated in recent weeks, as Democrats and voting rights groups have pushed hard for Congress to allocate funding for mail-in voting in future stimulus packages. 

Democratic Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats vote to provide 0 unemployment benefits into September Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE (Ore.) and Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe eight Democrats who voted 'no' on minimum wage Justice Democrats call moderates' votes against minimum wage hike 'unconscionable' Senate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike MORE (Del.) have led the fight for funding in the Senate, with other supporters including House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Andrew Yang condemns attacks against Asian Americans Congress in lockdown: Will we just 'get used to it'? MORE (D-Calif.) and former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' Michelle Obama on conversations with her daughters: 'Me and Barack, we can't get a word in' Michelle Obama offers advice with release of young readers' edition of 'Becoming' memoir MORE

Congress already appropriated $400 million in election funds as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law in March. The funds came with a clause that required a 20 percent state match, an issue states on the verge of bankruptcy have objected to. A bill introduced by Rep. Joseph Neguse (D-Colo.) on Monday would waive the matching funds requirement. 

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While Republican state officials support receiving more election funds, Republican leaders including President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food MORE have railed against mail-in voting, citing concerns that it would increase voting fraud and hurt Republican election chances.

But experts have cautioned that not expanding mail-in and early in-person voting could seriously impact the ability for primary and general elections to move forward this year. 

New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice warned in a report released Monday that if election officials fail to meet deadlines for equipment and supplies between May and August, the November elections could be put in danger and some Americans could lose the ability to vote. 

“State and local election officials must begin making purchases in a matter of weeks in order to ensure free, fair, and safe elections this fall,” the authors wrote in the report. 

The report found that states need to begin modernizing and updating voter registration systems before the end of the month to meet the expected surge in registration requests. High speed scanners to read and tabulate ballots must be purchased this month for delivery by October, and online absentee ballot request systems must be updated by August at the latest. 

“The expenses involved in preparing for this November’s election are hitting election officials around the country now. Congress must fund this need immediately,” Edgardo Cortés, one of the report’s authors and an election security adviser to the Brennan Center, said in a statement.  “Our election officials don’t have time to wait, and our democracy doesn’t either.”

The Brennan Center previously called for $4 billion to be made available to states to secure elections during the COVID-19 crisis, the amount that Democrats on Capitol Hill are also pushing for.