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This week in COVID-19 voting news

What it means for access to the ballot box during the pandemic
For Immediate Release

U.S. PIRG and its state affiliates are working to ensure that every eligible American voter has the ability to participate in democracy, even during a pandemic. We’re calling on states to start preparing now to ensure safe elections in November, including emergency expansion of vote by mail, sanitized and socially-distant polling places and other measures

This weekly update will highlight the work we’re doing on the COVID-19 voting front, and other important developments in the news. If you have questions or comments, please email Joe Ready (jready@pirg.org) or Ross Sherman (rsherman@publicinterestnetwork.org).

National

U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Mike Quigley (D-IL), chairs of the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government respectively, called Friday for additional federal funding for elections. The CARES Act dedicated $400 million to help states administer elections, but that falls far short of what’s needed. As the representatives say in the piece, “Unless we significantly increase election assistance, states will not have the resources to adequately prepare during the pandemic.”

Apart from additional funding, there is lots of work to do to ensure safe, secure elections this fall. Ballot tracking technology can help make that happen by giving voters confidence that their vote-by-mail ballot has been received and counted.

Massachusetts

With the support of MASSPIRG, legislation was introduced in both the Massachusetts House and Senate Wednesday to expand voting options and safeguard the fall elections. If passed, the bill would ensure that all voters have the option to vote absentee, extend early voting periods, and allow general election ballots postmarked on or before November 3 to be counted, among other positive changes.

Florida

Miami-Dade county commissioners unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to encourage more absentee voting in upcoming elections, tasking its Elections Department with sending more than 500,000 applications for mail-in ballots to residents. Though county officials could have gone further, namely sending applications to every eligible voter, this is a positive first step.

Ohio

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose outlined on Tuesday various changes he thinks the state needs to make in order to ensure safe voting during COVID-19, including allowing online ballot requests. Ohio lawmakers should adopt these policies, given the low turnout and mail-in ballot issues the state experienced in their primary that ended on April 28.

Kansas

Last Saturday, Kansas held an all-mail Democratic primary in response to COVID-19. Notably, turnout more than tripled over 2016. The party also decided to conduct the election with ranked-choice voting instead of a caucus, which further opened the doors to more participation.

Wisconsin

Learning lessons from this spring’s primary, the city of Milwaukee passed a resolution late last week to mail all of its registered voters applications for absentee mail ballots with prepaid return postage. This will make it easier for voters to choose to vote absentee and reduce the volume of work for administrators.

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

U.S. PIRG affiliates: Arizona PIRG, CALPIRG, CoPIRG, ConnPIRG, Florida PIRG, Georgia PIRG, Iowa PIRG, Illinois PIRG, MASSPIRG, Maryland PIRG, PIRGIM, MoPIRG, MontPIRG, NCPIRG, NHPIRG, NJPIRG, NMPIRG, Ohio PIRG, OSPIRG, PennPIRG, RIPIRG, TexPIRG, WashPIRG, WISPIRG.

 U.S. PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.

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U.S. PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.