House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told MSNBC in an interview Wednesday that a portion of the funds contained in the next COVID-19 relief bill should be used to support mail-in and absentee voting efforts.
“We have to have an important chunk of money in this next bill that will enable us to protect the integrity of our elections, as well as enable the American people to vote-by-mail, especially at this time of a health danger in going to the polls,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, referring to the risk of contracting COVID-19 by voting in person amid the pandemic.
“This is the lifeblood of our democracy, the vote,” Pelosi said. “So here we are trying to protect the lives of American people, the livelihoods of the American people, and also the life of our democracy. That is what we are going to do in the next bill as well.”
The drive to expand vote-by-mail options during the pandemic has emerged as the centerpiece of a growing political fight ahead of November’s election.
President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers have challenged the idea of expanding mail balloting, arguing it is vulnerable to fraud. Democrats, and voting rights groups, say it is a way to protect voters from the deadly CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. They say a failure to guarantee that option amid a pandemic will disenfranchise millions of Americans.
Pelosi’s comments on Wednesday echo earlier Democrat efforts for vote-related allocations in the $2.2 trillion relief bill that Trump signed into law on March 27, which included $400 million for states to take steps to make it safe for voters to participate in elections amid the outbreak.
“In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote-by-mail,” Pelosi said in a March 31 appearance on MSNBC. “That’s why we wanted to have more resources in this third bill that just was signed by the president to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life that we are going to have to have more vote-by-mail.”
An early House draft of the CARES Act included $4 billion in allocations for election-continuity measures, along with requirements for states to expand early voting and send absentee ballots to each registered voter.
Some of the proposals in the House draft of the CARES Act were informed by a report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which estimated states would need around $2 billion to shore up elections amid the pandemic.
Measures recommended in the report include increasing the ability for voters to cast an absentee ballot and give all Americans the option to vote-by-mail.
“All voters should be offered the option to cast their ballot by mail (with multiple submission options, as provided below), so as to enable voters to avoid lines at the polls and exposure to COVID-19,” the authors of the report wrote.
Meanwhile, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found that 67 percent of polled registered voters approve of this year’s election being held through the mail, with support split along partisan lines.
The poll found that 88 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents, and 44 percent of Republicans support mail-in voting in general or for November’s election specifically.