Everyone Should Be Able to Vote by Mail, Especially in a Pandemic

Monday, May 4, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Jennifer Lamson
206-369-3122

Statement of Wendy Fields, Executive Director
National Vote At Home Institute Press Briefing

Everyone Should Be Able to Vote by Mail, Especially in a Pandemic

Washington, DC – In remarks delivered as part of a virtual press conference convened by National Vote At Home Institute (NVAHI) to share the ​latest research​ on how vote by mail programs impact historically disenfranchised voting communities, Wendy Fields said:

“We start from the premise that a fully participatory election strengthens our democracy and our communities. Every voter must have access to the ballot and have their vote counted. During this pandemic, voters and election workers must be protected.  No individual can be left behind in the 2020 Elections regardless of zip code, class or status. Government is making life and death decisions that affect all of us. Voting gives us a voice in those decisions. There is no better time for all states to join Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah who have 21st century voting that includes Vote by Mail.

I speak on behalf of the Democracy Initiative’s 72 partners – labor unions, civil rights organizations, environmental, immigration and other social justice groups – who have been fighting for Vote by Mail for years – including LGBTQ Task Force and League of Women Voters who are also speaking today. Many of our collective 45 million members are essential workers and advocates on the front lines of the pandemic crisis.  They are Black, Brown and White, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals. Many of them, along with their families, are among the 34 million unemployed, and vulnerable to the most devastating consequences of COVID-19.

Yet, even while they are fighting for their people on the front lines, I hear from our leaders at the local and state level, especially leaders of color, every day. They demand access and equity in voting. Thousands of them are volunteer poll monitors and supporters of election clerks. They want to do their civic duty safely.

Our leaders see voters in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah voting safely and securely at home, mailing ballots back with pre-paid postage, or dropping them in a convenient neighborhood ballot box and they say:  We want that too.

I welcome the new research presented here today by the National Vote at Home Institute. I am not at all surprised to learn that voting by mail, when there is planning and strong infrastructure, is popular and increases voter participation across all demographics. It is a common-sense reform that reduces lines and cuts down on crowded polling places, which in turn helps to keep in-person voters and election workers safe for those that need that option.

Recent independent polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 70% of Americans believe that any voter should be able to vote by mail if they want to. This is not partisan issue. This is about finding the political will to do the right thing.

Governors must move quickly to work with state and local elections officials to make the necessary changes. But state and local governments cannot be expected to fund this election on their already maxed out budgets from dealing with the health and economic crisis. It is the federal government’s responsibility to make safeguarding the election part of the public-health crisis funding. So far, Congress has only appropriated $400 million – nowhere near enough.

This nation has a long and ugly history of trying to keep people of color from exercising their political power by voting and a history of low turnout elections. Corporations are receiving trillions of our hard-earned tax dollars while an American icon like the US Postal Service suffers the fall-out from COVID-19 and partisan political games. But let’s remember, government stands to get a report card this November.  Imagine what that report card would look like if 75% of Americans voted.

Let’s rise together in this moment and call on Congress to fund safe voting, expand vote by mail including prepaid postage, and support the Post Office so our trusted postal workers can carry our ballots in November. Our democracy depends on it.

 

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The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 72 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.