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Voting in 2020: Summary of Briefing Call 3/23/2020

Publication date: 
March, 2020

Speakers present for the call: 

  • Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
  • Wendy Weiser, Brennan Center
  • Marc Elias, Voting Rights Litigation
  • Lauren Groh-Wargo, Fair Fight Action


Please help the efforts to include elections funding in the federal stimulus please contact members of congress directly and push through your social channels.  Talking points below from LCCR and attached is some great sample social media posts from the Democracy for All coalition.

  1. The health of our families, neighbors and communities and ensure that our core democratic functions – like voting – remain intact.
  2. COVID-19 could derail election preparedness in Nov. States are not ready based on status quo and need funding to be ready even if we are in middle of COVID-19
  3. This is not a right or left issue. Republican and Democratic officials, secretaries of states, local election officials are calling for the funding to be ready. See:
  4. We must act NOW to ensure the integrity of the 2020 primary and general elections --  including vote-by-mail, expanding registration, supporting safe in-person voting, and education. These reforms, and at least $2 billion for states to implement them, are critical to ensure elections happen safely during a pandemic through the primary and general elections.
  5. We must support states in protecting the integrity of elections, the right to vote, and the health of poll workers and voters. Congress must enact these common sense measures to ensure that elections can proceed in a safe, and healthy manner, and provide states with certainty and resources to implement these policies.


With our very democracy at risk and the need for states to rapidly scale their vote by mail infrastructure and make other significant changes to ensure access to the ballot in the fall elections, we would like to invite you to a call to discuss our recommendations on the work that needs to happen to ensure well run elections in the fall. 

BACKGROUND: We are committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to register, cast their ballot, and have their vote count in 2020. Voters participate in elections because they want to realize the hopes and dreams of their family and community. With this same emphasis on our shared humanity in mind, we are calling on federal, state, and local elections officials to adapt their election policies, procedures, and plans to accommodate the novel coronavirus. We must not only make it easier for voters to register and vote; we must also protect the health and safety of those who make elections possible, from poll workers to mail carriers. As we make it easier for all eligible voters to cast their ballots, we must also pay particular attention to the access afforded to voters of color, voters with disabilities and Native Americans.

These recommendations for the general election draw on the work and guidance of The National Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, The Brennan Center, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Perkins Coie and other experts. Overview below.  Recommended reading to dig deeper:

VOTER REGISTRATION: Because of disruptions to traditional community voter registration programs and our postal services, states must accommodate expanded voter registration. 

  • States must expand the ways in which voters can register to vote and update their registration, including offering online registration.
  • States must offer same-day registration for this election.

VOTE BY MAIL: All voters must be able to vote by mail from the safety of their home if they choose, without requiring an excuse, identification, notarization or witness signature.

  • Expanded vote by mail programs must include the following safeguards to ensure voters are not disenfranchised:
    • States must mail a ballot to every eligible voter, including so-called “inactive” registered voters.
    • Postage for the application and ballot must be prepaid or free.
    • Ballots that are postmarked by or on Election Day must be counted. 
    • States that expand vote by mail must do so without a signature match policy. In states where signature match is required by state law, states must implement a timely notification and cure process. 
    • Voters must be able to get assistance completing and returning the ballots, including by dropping off ballots in designated “dropboxes” and allowing community organizations to collect sealed ballots.
    • States must develop systems so voters can easily track their application and ballot through every step of the process.
  • States must provide additional resources to support massive increases in vote by mail.
    • States should consider centrally processing the issuance and return of vote-by-mail applications and ballots. Central processing will relieve counties of a tremendous burden and ensure uniformity in the process. Central processing must be transparent and allow for Parties and candidates to observe and object to rejected ballots.

EARLY VOTE: While all voters must be able to vote from their home if they choose to, states must also increase access to in-person voting to reduce congestion at the polls and to serve voters who do not want or are unable to vote by mail. 

  • States that offer early, in-person voting should expand the number of locations and the hours these locations are open to reduce lines. States that do not allow early, in-person voting must implement it for this election. Early vote periods must occur during the 20-day period before the election and must include at least one weekend. 
  • States must ensure that CDC guidelines are followed to minimize contamination at polling locations. Poll workers must have access to disinfectants, sanitizers, gloves, and other materials. 

ELECTION DAY: Voters must be able to safely vote on Election Day if they choose.

  • States must ensure that CDC guidelines are followed to minimize the spread of contamination at polling locations. 
  • States must ensure there is an equitable distribution of polling locations and election equipment, particularly in precincts that serve Black and Brown voters and in Native American communities, and that these polling locations meet the needs of voters with disabilities.

BALLOT COUNTING: Same-day registration will dramatically decrease the need for provisional ballots, while eliminating the requirement for many voters to return and cure their ballot. In addition:

  • Provisional ballots cast by voters who submitted their registration on time but whose registration was not yet processed should count. 
  • Any voter who casts a ballot at any precinct in their county should have their ballot counted.

VOTER EDUCATION: This is a challenging time, many people are scared, and life is changing rapidly. States must make significant investments in ensuring voters have confidence in the system and understand how to participate in elections this year.

  • States must invest in a multi-platform campaign to promote new opportunities to vote and ensure that voters have the information they need.
  • Voter education must serve the new American majority, including the growing AAPI and Latinx populations.
  • States must have a plan to combat disinformation that is likely to surround these new opportunities and elections overall.


  • Funding these critical changes to our election infrastructure will cost just a fraction of the response this pandemic requires. The Brennan Center estimates that it will cost up to $2B to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and secure our elections. Expanding access to vote by mail alone could cost $982 million–$1.4 billion, with another $271.4 million to maintain in-person voting, $85.9 million to expand access to online registration, and $252.1 million towards voter education. 
  • Congress must pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, which will allow the federal government to reimburse states for many of the costs associated with complying with these new regulations. These costs include recruiting poll workers, creating online absentee ballot request systems, early vote expansion, equipment to process vote by mail ballots, ballot marking systems for voters with disabilities, and sending and returning envelopes with prepaid postage in state-run primaries in 2020.
  • The most efficient method for Congress to enact these critical election reforms is to include necessary funding as part of the economic stimulus package.
  • States themselves need to provide emergency funds to ensure elections run well in this new environment, including covering costs of expanded voting by mail, and be prepared to fill gaps that the federal government does not fill, and states must be prepared for the possibility of inaction by Congress.
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