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Local Officials Are Deeply Concerned That Congress Won’t Address COVID-19 Threat to Elections

A coalition of local election officials on Sunday said that the novel COVID-19 coronavirus poses an unprecedented threat to America’s election system that Congress must address in any pandemic-related stimulus package.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), 22 local election officials from 11 states urged Congress not to overlook the dire situation posed by the virus.

“As local election officials, we are on the front lines in the effort to protect every voter and every vote. This year, we face unprecedented challenges in fulfilling our responsibilities,” the officials wrote. “Due to the current pandemic, primary and local elections across the country have been postponed and rescheduled. Our colleagues have been forced to make last minute changes to polling places, and conduct elections without sufficient staff or poll worker support, as we work to balance public safety and the sacred right to vote.”

The bill currently being debated in the Senate includes $140 million in grants for state and local election officials to “prevent, prepare for and respond to” the pandemic, a figure the group says is a “start,” but not nearly enough to support what local election officials need to fund the changes necessary to ensure that every American can vote in the 2020 elections.

“We urge you to include substantial funding in the coronavirus stimulus package so that we have the ability and resources to ensure that our voters can participate safely and with confidence in our elections,” the letter stated. “We are committed to protecting every voter and every vote. We ask you to increase the elections funding being considered in the current stimulus package to ensure the security and resiliency of our nation’s election system.”

According to a study from the Brennan Center for Justice, it would likely cost the U.S. nearly $2 billion to properly implement new voting procedures to ensure that Americans can vote in November.

The analysis specified that it would cost approximately $1.4 billion for every state to implement universal voting by mail and nearly $272 million to maintain existing in-person voting systems.

Law&Crime has previously analyzed Coronavirus-related issues with federal elections and swearing-in ceremonies.  Many of the dates are constitutionally required.

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.