Rep. Mark Pocan added his legislative weight to demands from progressives that Congress include in the next coronavirus relief package $4 billion for election assistance as the disease continues to make in-person voting potentially hazardous, necessitating reforms.
"Voting shouldn't be a risk you have to choose to take," Pocan said in a statement Wednesday. "The health of the election and the health of the nation will be at stake in November—and we think this funding should be non-negotiable."
The Wisconsin Democrat joined groups like Stand Up America and Demos Action in a press call promoting their demand that federal lawmakers act to protect the right to vote and avoid debacles like that in Wisconsin in April, where officials pushed forward with in-person voting despite the health risks—resulting in dozens in the aftermath becoming ill with Covid-19.
"The Wisconsin election is the poster child for everything that can go wrong if we don't act fast," said Pocan.
As Common Dreams reported, over 150 advocacy groups, including Stand Up America and Demos, demanded in an open letter on April 13 that Congress take action to protect elections because "time is of the essence" as shown by the "the election fiasco in Wisconsin—where voters were forced to risk their health and safety in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote."
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The spread of the disease in Wisconsin and other states through polling places, said Demos senior policy analyst Laura Williamson, shows that "crowded polling places and waiting hours in long lines do not serve the public interest."
"The bottom line here is that Covid-19 presents an existential threat to our democracy—especially for Black and brown voters who have always faced higher barriers to the ballot box," said Williamson.
Stand Up America founder Sean Eldridge declared that inaction "would put our democracy and the 2020 election at risk."
"We know that Democrats have leverage in negotiating the next coronavirus package, and we are calling on them to use it to ensure that election assistance funding is included," said Eldridge. "States need funding right now for upcoming primaries, and there are fewer than 200 days until the general election in November. Congress must act by providing $4 billion."