The COVID-19 outbreak, otherwise known as the coronavirus pandemic, has caused economic devastation across the country with marginalized communities feeling the brunt of the heavy losses with an additional 5 million people applying for unemployment this week. Now Sen. Kamala Harris wants to ensure that the quarantine protocols don’t affect the upcoming election.
Harris announced that she would be introducing the VoteSafe Act to expand voting options and improve the safety and accessibility of polling places in the U.S. The new bill would require states to permit no-excuse mail-in absentee voting, maintain an early voting period of at least 20 days, and provide grants for states to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of polling places.
“So many have marched, protested, fought and died for the fundamental right to vote, yet that right is under attack,” said Harris in a press statement.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the obstacles many already face when voting. Even before the pandemic, Native Americans, Black and Latinx voters, and voters with disabilities too often faced long lines, inaccessible voting locations, and outright hostility by election officials. I’m proud to announce the VoteSafe Act because the American people deserve a comprehensive solution to ensure that voting is safe and accessible.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NALEO Educational Fund, National Disability Rights Network, Native American Rights Fund, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).
“Last week’s election in Wisconsin made evident that we must move quickly and decisively to ensure during this COVID-19 pandemic that voters will not have to choose between their health and safety, and exercising their fundamental right as citizens to vote,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.
“For African American voters who have been disproportionately affected by the virus and its deadly effects, and for whom the right to vote was hard won at the cost of thousands of lives, it is particularly important that Congress ensure that there are options like expanded early voting, as well as safe, secure alternatives to in-person voting, to ensure that every eligible African American voter has the opportunity to cast their vote in November.”