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Lawmakers introduce legislation to massively expand mail-in voting

Lawmakers introduce legislation to massively expand mail-in voting
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Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats get good news from IRS IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion The first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerDemocrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure Democrats have a growing tax problem with SALT Progressives up pressure on Biden to back COVID vaccine patent waiver MORE (D-Ore.) on Thursday introduced legislation to allow all registered voters to have the option to vote from home.

The Vote at Home Act would require all registered voters to be sent mail-in ballots prior to Election Day, guarantee that voters had the option to either vote by mail or vote in person at the polls and enact automatic voter registration for all citizens with driver’s licenses or permits. 

It would be a significant expansion of mail-in voting.

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It would also address concerns around paying for mail-in voting by providing funding to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to cover the costs of mailing the ballots. 

“Our democracy is stronger when every American can vote, without standing in ridiculous lines or having to take time off work or school to exercise their Constitutional rights,” Wyden, who led over a dozen other Democratic senators in introducing the bill, said in a statement Thursday.

The bill was first introduced in 2017, but did not see passage. The lawmakers reintroduced it following a general election that saw a huge spike in mail-in voting due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, with just less than half of voters mailing their ballots in 2020. 

Oregon is among the states that had allowed mail-in voting prior to 2020, and was the first state to move to voting almost entirely by mail. Wyden has been among the most vocal senators on election reform and security issues, including pushing hard over the past year to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.

“To get the big things done that really improve Americans’ lives, our country needs the government to represent all Americans,” Wyden said. “Oregonians know that voting at home is a time-tested, secure and accessible way to vote. It’s high time the rest of the country had the chance to vote the way we do.” 

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Blumenauer warned in a separate statement that the right to vote is “under threat in communities across America.”

“Last year we saw a widespread expansion of vote-at-home access as a safe and secure way to participate during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Blumenauer said. “We should continue to make voting easier, not harder. This important bill would strengthen and clarify the right to vote at home, the most secure and convenient way for voters to exercise the franchise.”

The bill is not the only effort by Democrats to widen the ability for Americans to vote. Democrats in both the House and Senate have reintroduced the For the People Act, a sweeping piece of voting reform legislation that would expand voting access and increase election security, among many other measures. 

Other election-related bills are also likely to see reintroduction, with Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Intelligence leaders warn of threats from China, domestic terrorism Wray: FBI opens investigation into China every 10 hours MORE (D-Va.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) intending to reintroduce the Honest Ads Act this year, which would increase the transparency around election advertisements on social media. 

Klobuchar will soon become chairwoman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, telling The Hill earlier this month that she has a full slate of actions planned, including enhancing election security and expanding the use of paper ballots. 

“Some of my key priorities as the Chair of the Rules Committee ... will be to make voting easier and more secure and to halt the flood of special interest and dark money that is drowning out the voices of the American people,” Klobuchar said in a statement.