Consensus is growing that Democrats and Republicans will soon hash out a new coronavirus emergency package in the coming weeks. But a major obstacle is emerging: the November election.
Democrats are making a push to expand funding for vote-by-mail efforts in a fourth emergency rescue package, citing the need to help states prepare to hold elections during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a public health issue, Democrats argue: That elections carried out as usual could spread the virus this fall.
But new vote-by-mail funding is facing stern resistance from Senate Republicans and the Trump administration, who argue against imposing federal guidelines on states. The issue may be a sticking point to any relief package as the U.S. faces mass unemployment and a plummeting economy.
“We are getting more and more bipartisan support from secretaries of states across the country,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in an interview, who is leading a bill with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) to expand early voting as well as vote-by-mail.
“In a worst case scenario communities may be facing the choice of either voting by mail or not voting at all,” added Wyden. “We’re already going in this direction and now we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I think this is a very different time.”
Congress’ Phase 3 $2 trillion-plus coronavirus package, passed last week, allocated $400 million to election security grants, which can be used broadly, including to expand vote-by-mail options and early voting, as well as to clean polling facilities and conduct public education campaigns.
But Democrats assert that money is not nearly enough for states to adjust to the risks associated with the pandemic and are pushing for far more. Citing the move by some Republicans to delay primaries amid coronavirus concerns, Klobuchar said that she is “looking at that next package to get the funding included” as well as some additional reforms, like removing state requirements that voters present an excuse to vote absentee.