Progressive voting rights groups are calling on Democrats in Congress to refuse to cut a deal on any Covid-19 relief proposal without money for election assistance, warning that exclusion of the funding could suppress turnout in November.
"If Republicans believe we can afford $8 billion for defense contractors and nearly $2 billion to remodel the FBI headquarters, then we can certainly afford $3.6 billion in federal funding for safe, secure elections."
In a joint statement Thursday, Stand Up America, Color of Change, Indivisible, Let America Vote/End Citizens United Action Fund, and Public Citizen said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans "are willfully ignoring the threat this pandemic poses to our democracy in an effort to suppress the vote."
"Republicans cannot be allowed to suppress the vote in the middle of a pandemic," the groups said, "and that's why we support Democrats in both chambers, who are staying firm and using their leverage to protect our democracy by ensuring that election funding, census funding, and an extension of the census reporting deadline are included in a final brokered deal."
Politico reported Wednesday that Republicans oppose additional election assistance money because they believe "Democrats are trying to fund a massive mail-in ballot program."
If the Senate doesn’t reach a deal in the next 2 days, states may not have funding to hold safe elections this year.
It’s not right to ask your constituents to choose between risking their health and casting their ballot.
Text MAIL to 21333 to call your senator.
— Stand Up America (@StandUpAmerica) August 6, 2020
The Covid-19 stimulus plan Senate Republicans released last month does not propose a single dollar in election assistance funding despite pleas from state officials for additional money to ensure that voting is made as safe as possible amid the pandemic.
The GOP legislation does call for $29.4 billion in funding for the Pentagon, including $8 billion for new weapons.
"If Republicans believe we can afford $8 billion for defense contractors and nearly $2 billion to remodel the FBI headquarters, then we can certainly afford $3.6 billion in federal funding for safe, secure elections and a deadline extension for the Census Bureau to ensure communities of color aren't erased on the census," the progressive groups said.
"Anything less," the groups added, "would not only hurt our elections this year, but damage our democracy for years to come—and that's why Republicans cannot be allowed to get away with census and voter suppression."