Loading...

Party Divisions Evident in Congress Over Expanded Use of Absentee Ballots

June 4, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Rep. Steve Cohen

WASHINGTON – A congressional subcommittee on Wednesday threw itself into the growing controversy over absentee voting as a safeguard against coronavirus.

Democrats and Republicans agreed voters should not need to risk their lives at polling places by exposing themselves to carriers of the deadly disease.

They disagreed on whether the risk is great enough to ease restrictions on absentee voting.

They also disagreed about whether voting by mail increases the risk of voter fraud.

“States are being faced with a choice,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat. 

“Will they adapt to this new reality and ensure that everyone can vote safely in November or will they fail to act in the face of this historic challenge?”

A leading proposal for expanding absentee ballots is found in the latest version of the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion economic stimulus bill that passed the House of Representatives last month. It would allocate $3.6 billion to states to pay for early voting, wider use of the mail-in ballots and social distancing protections at polling places.

Most of the money would be used for the upcoming federal election in November.

Cohen, who chairs the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice, supports the Heroes Act.

However, it faces stiff opposition in the Senate, where some Republicans have described it as “dead on arrival.”

“We must ensure that all Americans eligible to vote can do it by mail if they want,” Cohen said. “They shouldn’t have to go through endless bureaucratic hurdles to do it.”

Currently, many states require an excuse, such as a provable disability or illness, to qualify for absentee ballots that can be mailed to election officials. Typically state laws require a witness to vouch for a voter’s inability to vote in person.

Unlike in-person voting that requires proof of identity at polling places, election officials have difficulty proving that a ballot submitted by mail was completed by the voter.

Nearly 30 states have changed rules to varying degrees to allow more absentee ballots for this year’s primaries or the general election. Eight states and the District of Columbia held their primaries on Tuesday.

Without expanded access to voting through absentee ballots, “it will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color,” Cohen said.

African-Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, meaning they are most likely to avoid voting in person, according to Democrats.

Cohen also cast doubt on President Donald Trump’s statements that more absentee ballots would lead to greater voter fraud. Instead, Trump is trying to take away any advantage that Democrats might win through wider absentee voting, he said.

“He’s not thinking about fraud,” Cohen said. “He’s thinking about politics.”

Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, disagreed, saying Democratic proposals for more mail-in votes are not “in the best interest of maintaining the integrity of our election system.”

Voter fraud that already exists as a problem would only be exacerbated by more absentee ballots, he said.

In some states, “Voter registration rolls outnumber the actual number of citizens in that state,” Johnson said. “There’s too much at risk.”

He quoted the 2005 report from the Bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform that concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud in American elections.”

Increasing access to absentee ballots now could set a precedent for other elections, resulting in most of the nation’s voters mailing in their ballots, he said.

Expert witnesses at the hearing Wednesday split along lines similar to Republicans and Democrats.

Tom Fitton, president of the conservative government transparency advocacy group Judicial Watch, said, “I think absentee ballots are too readily available.”

Stacey Abrams, chairwoman of the voter advocacy group Fair Fight, said that in-person voting ignores the risk of virus infection. She mentioned the example of an April 7 vote in Wisconsin that resulted in 71 coronavirus infections.

Many voters would rather stay at home than risk getting sick by voting in-person, she said.

“The challenge is the access,” Abrams said.

A+
a-

2020 Elections

Biden's Big Bill on Brink of House Votes, But Fights Remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in the House appear on the verge of advancing President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion-and-growing domestic policy package alongside... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in the House appear on the verge of advancing President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion-and-growing domestic policy package alongside a companion $1 trillion infrastructure bill in what would be a dramatic political accomplishment — if they can push it to passage. The House scrapped votes... Read More

November 4, 2021
by Dan McCue
Murphy Narrowly Wins Reelection as New Jersey’s Governor

TRENTON, N.J. —The nail biter is over. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has been elected to a second term in... Read More

TRENTON, N.J. —The nail biter is over. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has been elected to a second term in the state’s highest office. As of Thursday morning, the Democratic incumbent was leading Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by 37,293 votes, with 91% of the state’s election... Read More

Biden Winds Up G-20 Summit With Dings at Russia, China

ROME (AP) — President Joe Biden wrapped up his time at the Group of 20 summit on Sunday trying to... Read More

ROME (AP) — President Joe Biden wrapped up his time at the Group of 20 summit on Sunday trying to convince Americans and the wider world that he's got things under control — and taking Russia, China and Saudi Arabia to task for not doing enough... Read More

Trump Lawyers Might be Penalized Over Michigan Election Case

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to order financial penalties or other sanctions against some of former... Read More

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to order financial penalties or other sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump's lawyers who signed onto a lawsuit last year challenging Michigan's election results. The lawsuit alleging widespread fraud was voluntarily dropped after a judge... Read More

June 15, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Congress Begins Investigation of Alleged Justice Dept. Abuses

WASHINGTON -- A powerful congressional committee is beginning an investigation into reports the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed information about members... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A powerful congressional committee is beginning an investigation into reports the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed information about members of Congress and journalists during the Trump administration. The committee’s chairman said he was concerned the Justice Department “used criminal investigations as a pretext to spy... Read More

AP Interview: Disinformation Concerns Mail Voting Expert

ATLANTA (AP) — Amber McReynolds, CEO of The National Vote at Home Institute, helped state and local election officials prepare... Read More

ATLANTA (AP) — Amber McReynolds, CEO of The National Vote at Home Institute, helped state and local election officials prepare for the record number of mailed ballots cast during last year's presidential election. She also was recently confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Board... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version