Dear Colleague to All Members on Support for Voting Rights and Access in The Heroes Act
Today, we mark the milestone of 101 years since the House passed the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
In a democracy, the right to vote is sacred and it is our responsibility to remove obstacles to the ballot box. As we celebrate the 19th amendment’s expansion of the vote, we must also welcome further opportunities to increase participation.
In addition, at this time, the coronavirus is threatening lives and millions fear endangering their health and that of their families by going to the polling place. Very sadly, these fears have basis in fact: in Wisconsin, at least 67 state residents contracted COVID-19 after voting in-person or working at the polls April 7. Protecting access to the ballot is therefore a health priority – both for the health of the American people and the health of our American democracy.
No one should ever be forced to choose between their health and their vote. For that reason, in CARES, we secured a strong down payment of $400 million for states to ensure safe access to the ballot—including voting by mail. This initial investment is strongly supported by state and local leaders; all 50 states have requested from the Elections Assistance Commission provided by the CARES Act and 98 percent of the money has been disbursed.
As the bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State recently wrote to Congress, “This money will help address the unique challenges each of our states face conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic… In this time of crisis, Secretaries of State throughout the nation are working to plan and hold free and fair elections, with our voters’ health and safety as the top priority.”
Now, as the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on elections have continued to accelerate, nonpartisan experts agree that much more is needed to protect access to the ballot. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that an additional $3.6 billion is necessary to ensure that all 2020 elections, including on the state and local level, are free, fair, safe and secure, including by expanding vote-by-mail, protecting in-person voting when necessary and bolstering online registration. More than 150 voting rights and democracy groups recently echoed that call, noting the critical importance of vote-by-mail for communities of color, Americans with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.
In The Heroes Act, Democratic Members, in consultation with experts and state and local leaders, proudly insisted on strong, evidence-based measures that reflect these essential needs:
- An additional $3.6 billion for states to expand safe, accessible elections;
- Expanded vote-by-mail (no-excuse absentee), sending a ballot to every registered voter, postage prepaid;
- Protections for in-person voting, including 15 days of early voting to allow for social distancing;
- Online voter registration and same-day voter registration.
The American people overwhelmingly support The Heroes Act and its provisions to save lives, livelihoods and the life of our American democracy. More than two-thirds of the public – and 8 out of 10 Independents – support The Heroes Act, according to a new Navigator Research poll. A new Quinnipiac Poll reaches the same conclusion.
Again, as we observe the 101st anniversary of the House’s action and prepare for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, let us honor our responsibility to our Democracy.
Please make your U.S. Senators aware of the major investment that The Heroes Act makes in protecting the American people and their sacred right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy.
Thanks and best regards,