Congress Must Ensure States Have the Resources to Hold a Safe Election

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen

Note: Public Citizen and other members of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition are participating in in a national call-in campaign that starts on Tuesday. Organizations are urging their members and supporters to call their senators and urge them to allocate $4 billion for states to ensure that every voter can participate in November’s election safely.

We are fast approaching a dire situation.

The presidential election is only seven months away and we are in the grip of a global pandemic. As we saw last week in Wisconsin, states aren’t prepared to hold an election safely.

But they still have just enough time to get prepared – if they have the resources.

That means that Congress must act fast to send $4 billion to states, so they can begin working immediately to enact measures that will enable everyone to vote and have their vote counted.

If it doesn’t, we’ll have a replay of last week’s Wisconsin primary, but on a national scale. In Wisconsin, because the state Supreme Court rejected an effort to delay the election, voters faced the unconscionable choice of exercising their right to vote or preserving their health. Poll workers – many of whom are elderly – similarly had to choose whether to do their jobs or avoid exposure to a virus that could kill them. More than 200 polling places were closed in key cities, leading to four- and five-hour waits, and absentee ballots didn’t arrive in time. As a result, voters across the state were disenfranchised.

We can’t let that happen in November, and the good news is we don’t have to. By getting money to states to extend early voting, expand vote-by-mail, expand voter registration options and bolster online voting registration, among other measures, states can protect the health of every voter and every vote.

Voting is sacred in America, which is why our political leaders have ensured that elections were held even during the most tumultuous times, such as wars and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

To make this happen will take both money and political will. So far, Congress has allocated just $400 million, a fraction of what is needed. The next relief package must contain the necessary funds to make this happen. Our democracy hangs in the balance.