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Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources

Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources
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A group of Senate Democrats and multiple voting rights advocacy groups stepped up efforts on Tuesday to pressure Senate Republicans to support and pass legislation that would provide states with election resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTrump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Start focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-Minn.), along with five other Senate Democrats, came to the Senate floor in an attempt to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act that would expand mail-in and early voting. 

“If we are defending our elections, then we must protect our democracy, and if our elections are not safe, then our democracy is not secure,” Klobuchar said of election efforts during the pandemic.

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The bill was blocked by Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mo.), who said he was worried the bill could be part of a “federal takeover of elections,” while noting that he may support sending states funding to boost election preparations during the pandemic.

This was the second time in less than a week that Klobuchar brought the bill to the Senate floor for a vote and was blocked by Blunt. The two senators lead the Senate Rules Committee, with Blunt saying the committee would hold an elections-focused hearing sometime next month that would include local and state officials as witnesses. 

While the Senate has not passed legislation around mail-in voting, it did include $400 million to boost elections in the coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE in March. Experts and congressional Democrats have said states need at least $3.6 billion more to contend with challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Klobuchar was joined by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Democrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (Ill.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsWhat a Biden administration should look like Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans don't believe Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball' MORE (Del.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Dow falls more than 900 points amid fears of new COVID-19 restrictions | Democrats press Trump Org. about president's Chinese bank account | Boeing plans thousands of additional job cuts Democrats press Trump Organization about president's Chinese bank account Plaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation MORE (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference MORE (Va.) in pushing for passage of the bill. 

“No one should have to risk their life to cast their vote, that is why it is so important to have safe opportunities to allow Americans to fulfill their right and vote in November,” Durbin said on the Senate floor while discussing the legislation.

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Wyden, a co-sponsor of the bill, pointed to concerns that without mail-in voting many Americans would be disenfranchised through chaos at the polls, pointing to examples during the Georgia and Wisconsin primary elections this year. 

“There is no Plan B here, colleagues, the choice is to take advantage of our options so citizens can vote safely or huge numbers of Americans won’t be able to vote at all,” Wyden said. 

The senators’ push for mail-in voting resources came the same day a coalition of voting rights groups put out a statement pressuring the Senate to vote on the House-passed HEROES Act, which includes $3.6 billion to assist states with holding elections during the pandemic.

The groups led by Stand Up America criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' On The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide MORE (R-Ky.) for not bringing up the HEROES Act for a vote. McConnell has previously described the overall bill as a “liberal wish list," and has also expressed concerns about election security legislation taking election jurisdiction away from states. 

“For over five weeks, the Senate has failed to take up a bill that would give states the resources to expand in-person and no-excuse absentee voting, extend early voting, keep polling places open, train poll workers, and implement other reforms to keep voters safe,” the groups said. 

“No American should have to risk their health to cast their ballot—but Mitch McConnell’s continued inaction will ensure that voters across the country are forced to make that choice this November.” 

They emphasized that “Democrats and Republican should be outraged by this abdication of responsibility and should force McConnell to take immediate action.”

The voting rights advocacy groups also included Common Cause, Fair Fight Action, Indivisible, Let America Vote / End Citizens United Action Fund, MoveOn, Public Citizen, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

Stand Up America Founder and President Sean Eldridge told The Hill that while he was “encouraged” by the efforts of many individuals states to move towards increased mail-in voting, “time and resources are running out.” 

“Policymakers should be doing everything they can to ensure voters can cast their ballots by mail rather than risk putting their loved ones in hospital beds,” Eldridge said.