Republicans and Democrats Barrel Toward Collision on Voting By Mail

May 13, 2020
In The News

House Democrats have proposed mandating that states send all voters a ballot in the case of emergencies — in their most recent coronavirus relief package, dubbed the HEROES Act, along with other sweeping changes to the elections. The bill would also require universal “no-excuse” absentee voting, online and same-day voter registration and expanded early voting, among other changes. In broad strokes, Americans support the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting. A recent Pew Research Center found seven in 10 adults supported allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to…. The election administration reforms in the package would likely be one of many points of contention. McConnell strongly opposed Democrats’ expansive election reform bill H.R. 1, which contained some of the same reforms included in the HEROES Act and was passed on a party line vote in the House in early 2019. Democrats argue that the public widely supports their proposals — and that the election security grant funding mechanism included in the HEROES Act is of critical importance. “On balance, [voters] think voting by mail is a good idea, and that we ought to expand that opportunity. They also, based on preference or access or other factors, want to make sure that there’s going to be some meaningful in-person voting opportunities,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who helped shepherd H.R. 1 through the House last year. Sarbanes and other Democrats also said all forms of voting need to be available in November. Those include "expanded vote by mail, significant early voting opportunities, and then safe in-person voting opportunities on Election Day," he said. "We need all three of those things.” House Democrats are seeking to allocate $3.6 billion in additional funding to election officials to help prepare their states for holding elections in the middle of the pandemic. The first CARES relief package included $400 million for that purpose. Some outside groups are pressing for more funding for state and local election officials, arguing that time is running short.