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Stacey Abrams throws support behind vote-by-mail efforts

The Hill logo The Hill 4/15/2020 Maggie Miller
Stacey Abrams et al. standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Stacey Abrams throws support behind vote-by-mail efforts © The Hill Stacey Abrams throws support behind vote-by-mail efforts

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Wednesday threw her support behind efforts to move toward mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, calling on Congress to pass legislation giving states $4 billion for these efforts.

"There are deep challenges to the execution of our election if we fail to act," Abrams told reporters during a press call. "We need Congress to act decisively so that voters across the country do not have to choose between their health and participation in our democracy."

The coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last month included $400 million to help states move forward with elections despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. These funds did not come with any requirements for how to use them, and according to Abrams and other mail-in voting advocates was an inadequate amount.

"The price tag for our democracy in 2020 is $4 billion," Abrams said. "Congress must immediately pass legislation to provide states and territories with the $4 billion necessary to expand vote-by-mail options, including no-excuse absentee voting."

Abrams has frequently implied that voter suppression efforts by her 2018 opponent for governor in Georgia, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, contributed to her narrow loss in the contest.

Abrams founded the election advocacy group Fair Fight last year and pointed to what she described as the "travesty" in Wisconsin during its primary election this month as underlining why states should move toward mail-in voting.

Wisconsin voters were forced to vote in person on election day after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that no absentee ballots sent in after election day would be counted. The decision led to long lines in places such as Milwaukee, with voting rights advocates arguing these lines potentially compromised the health of voters.

Many other states have been forced to postpone their primary elections, with some of these states moving toward making voting absentee easier.

But some states are not budging on mail-in voting, and many Republicans including President Trump have expressed concerns in recent weeks that mail-in voting could hurt Republican chances or lead to voter fraud.

"Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it," Trump tweeted last week. "Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn't work out well for Republicans."

Five states - Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Colorado - already vote entirely by mail, while states including California give all voters the option to vote by mail.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) joined Abrams on the press call Wednesday to push Congress to give states more funds for elections, pointing to her state's experience with voting this way for the past two decades.

"As the first state to move forward on all vote-by-mail, we know that vote-by-mail is proven as the most reliable and secure way for Americans to exercise their right to vote," Brown said. "It's modern, it's secure, it's efficient, and it's less expensive than in-person voting."

The call on Wednesday was hosted by progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, which helped spearhead a letter sent to congressional leaders earlier this week to urge Congress to send states $4 billion for elections. The letter was co-signed by more than 50 groups, including the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.) have led the charge in the Senate to pressure Republicans to support vote by mail funding, and former first lady Michelle Obama threw her support behind the effort Monday.

While Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have come out publicly in support of voting by mail, it is unclear whether any funds or requirements will be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package in the face of Republican opposition.

The Senate is out until early May, while the House has not yet scheduled a time to reconvene in person.

Abrams decided to pass on running for the Senate in 2020, but has often been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview published Wednesday, Abrams said she thought she would be an "excellent" running mate for Biden.


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