Statement of Aquene Freechild, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign
Note: U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) yesterday to ensure federal elections can take place safely this fall and beyond even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and other national emergencies.
It is critical that voting by mail be made universally available during a national emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic.
The possibility that in-person voting will be unsafe for large parts of the voting public should not be taken lightly by anyone who cares about public health and our democracy.
The major improvements specified in the bill allow any voter to use no-excuse absentee voting. The bill also allows voters who need to or prefer to vote in person to do so early nationwide. Both of these approaches will require significant preparation by election officials in most states.
We would like to see Congress go even further and require that mail-in ballots be provided to all eligible voters.
We recognize that adopting new voting procedures, especially in a time of crisis, requires significant additional staffing, equipment and overall funding. We encourage Congress to move forward on voting by mail and to provide significant upfront funding for these needs in the supplemental funding bills being considered.
We also call on legislators to ensure that ballots are secure from tampering throughout the process of collecting and counting them, and that the counting of ballots is transparent.
This should not be a partisan issue – voting by mail is popular with Republican, Independent and Democratic voters in states that offer voting by mail.
Elections take many months to plan. Congress must act quickly and decisively to ensure that every voter can exercise their right to vote this fall.