The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate
The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer,
April 14, 2020
There is currently a widespread call for billions of dollars in funding from Congress to support the 2020 elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current health crisis is creating large-scale challenges for election officials. They desperately need and deserve additional resources.
However, the last time Congress allocated close to four billion dollars for elections, in 2002 with the Help America Vote Act, there was insufficient oversight of spending. Funds were often used to purchase outdated, insecure electronic voting systems that undermined security, accuracy, reliability, and confidence. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake.
We support increased Congressional funding for states to administer elections subject to the requirements listed below. This will help to maximize participation and to ensure the safe, secure, accurate, transparent and trustworthy administration of U.S. elections. We don’t have to choose between a vibrant, robust democracy and the protection of public health—we can do both at the same time. These solutions will help. (Press Release)
1. Increase voting by mail, taking into account current systems and resources. There are many differences between absentee voting and a full vote-by-mail system. Many states will not have the resources, equipment, or accurate voter rolls necessary to send a ballot through the mail to every registered voter and process the returned ballots. States must assess what is best for full, safe, and trustworthy participation of the electorate: increased absentee ballot voting, or a more expanded vote by mail system, keeping in mind that voting in person will still be necessary because voting by mail does not work well for every community.
2. Make voter registration and voting through the mail easier, while ensuring security.
3. Protect the U.S. Postal Service with increased funding. A fully functional postal service is crucial when our democracy depends on expanding mail-in voting.
4. Require Election Administrators to immediately expand and streamline absentee voting and/or voting by mail. Set deadlines for election administrators to publish plans for these changes and to launch voter outreach campaigns so that the changes are enacted successfully and voters are informed and not confused. Make sure voters receive information about vote by mail requirements.
5. Have an honest, national conversation about third party ballot collection. Laws differ from state to state on who may collect a voted ballot for a voter. It is important for election administrators to be aware that this process is necessary in some communities, in particular for Native Americans; but that there is also documentation of real abuse, such as in North Carolina's ninth district. For the moment, we suggest requiring election administrators to educate voters that when possible it is best to cast or mail a voted ballot personally. But we also understand that a more thorough review of these practices is needed.
6. Require election administrators to recruit more poll workers immediately.
7. Require in-person Early Voting, Election Day voting, and central count processes to follow the CDC and EAC guidelines for masks, social distancing, and cleaning. Voters, Poll Workers, Election Officials, judges and observers must be able to follow safety guidelines and be protected.
8. Prohibit the use of Congressional funding to purchase touchscreen voting machines.
9. Prohibit closing or relocating polling places in a way that disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations, including voters with disabilities. Require polling place changes including consolidation to take place at least 45 days prior to the start of Early Voting and be accompanied by public outreach and written notification to affected voters.
10. To maintain confidence in the election results, require states to adopt a public oversight statute similar to Colorado’s 1-7-108, “Each watcher shall have the right … to witness and verify each step in the conduct of the election from prior to the opening of the polls through the completion of the count and announcement of the results … and to assist in the correction of discrepancies.” Due to the pandemic, it is important that states require remote observers to be given meaningful and close-up access to signature verification and tabulation (for example a video camera where votes and/or a signature are visible close-up on the screen). Do not allow states to designate signatures as private information because it inhibits the observation process. Colorado also has useful rules on election judges.
11. Require risk-limiting audits or full hand-count audits. Take advantage of this increase in the use of hand-marked paper ballots (absentee ballots and vote-by-mail) to mandate meaningful manual audits of reported results using those paper ballots. Require that all official audits be conducted using the original hand-marked (or for voters with disabilities: voter-marked) paper ballots.
12. Require that jurisdictions make the data created by any computer or voting system used in an election available to the public (as long as voter privacy is not compromised.) This must be done in a timely manner prior to certification of the results. In particular, require critical election data such as cast vote records and list vote records (when available), the number of voters who voted, the number of cast ballots, and precinct-level election results in a user-friendly (comma separated values) format be available, immediately following elections, on official election websites.
It is imperative that Congress, state and local officials, and local election
administrators move quickly and with care to implement the above suggestions. The American electoral system is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must ensure everyone can use it to make their voices heard, even in the midst of a crisis. Doing so will go a long way to keep voters safe, keep elections accurate and trustworthy and increase confidence in the results.
Elevating Election Reform to an Urgent National Priority
Lulu Friesdat, Co-Founder
Holly Mosher, Co-Founder
Jim Soper, Co-Founder
AUDIT Elections USA; John Brakey, Director
Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
Bennie Smith, Shelby County Election Commissioner*
Candidates With A Contract; Kelley Lane, Board Member
Citizens for Voting Integrity New York; Allegra Dengler, Co-Founder
Citizens’ Oversight Project; Ray Lutz, Executive Director
Center for Common Ground
Courage California; Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director
Democracy Counts!; Daniel Wolf, CEO
East Valley Indivisibles; Eileen Austen, Leadership Team
ElectionQuality.com; Harvie Branscomb
Election Defense Alliance; Sally Castleman, Chairperson
Election Security/Voters’ Rights Indivisible IL, Rose Colacino, Lead
Gratitude in Motion Fund
Green Party of Alameda County; Xylem Galadhon
Indiana Vote By Mail, Barbara Tully
Indivisible CA-43/Playa del Rey; Vlad Popescu, Leader
Indivisible California Green Team; Jennifer Tanner, Founder
Indivisible Claremont/ Inland Valley; Laurie Pittman, Leadership Member
Indivisible East Bay
Indivisible El Dorado Hills; Nancy Corona-Guzman, Steering Committee
Indivisible NJ 5; Han Broekman, Steering Committee
Indivisible San Francisco
Indivisible Santa Barbara; Keith Carlson, Steering Committee
Indivisible SF Peninsula and CA-14
Indivisible Stanislaus; Denise Hunt, Founder, Coordinating Leader
Indivisible Tracy; Yvonne Eder, President
Indivisible Yolo; Rachel Beck, Chair
IndivisibleWeStand UWS; Andrea Fink, Organizer
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Adam Mason
Jennifer Cohn; Attorney and Election Integrity Advocate
Jonathan D. Simon; Author, Code Red
Livermore Indivisible; Kristine Kansa, Steering Committee
Michigan Election Reform Alliance, Jan BenDor
Mimi Kennedy; Actress and Activist
Money Out Voters In, Michele Sutter, Executive Director
Movement for a People's Party, Suzanne O'Keeffe
National Voting Rights Task Force; Dale Axelrod, Co-Chair
Normal Heights Indivisible (NHI); Mala Wingerd, Activist
Northridge Indivisible; Michelle Fowle, Founder and Chair
People Demanding Action; Andrea Miller, Co-Executive Director
Pinellas Demcratic Party; Sharon Janis, Treasurer
Progressive Democrats of America; Alan Minsky, National Organizer
Secure Elections Network; Stephanie Chaplin Co-Founder and Lead
Scrutineers LLC, Emily Levy, Founder
Stephanie Singer; Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University*
Transparent Elections NC; Lynn Bernstein, Founder
Venice Resistance; Jed Pauker, Founding Board Member
Virginia Martin, Former Democratic Election Commissioner, Columbia County NY*
WESPAC; Nada Khader, Executive Director
Yalla Indivisible; Lulu Hammad, Steering Committee Member
*Affiliation is for identification purposes only and does not signify organizational endorsement.
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