Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined her colleagues in urging Vice President Pence and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor to provide ample PPE and sanitizing equipment for polling locations and workers during the November elections. As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the United States, the Trump administration must provide comprehensive hygiene, disinfecting, sanitizing, and physical distancing protocols to ensure safety during the election process and protect voting rights amidst the pandemic.
“Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy and voters and poll workers have already had to put their health and safety at risk to exercise their right to vote. Continuing down that path during this pandemic would be a disaster for our democracy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “With the 2020 election looming closer and with no clear end to social distancing, it is imperative we provide the tools necessary so every American can safely vote and follow CDC and health guidelines. The Trump administration must do much more to secure the integrity of our elections and I am proud to join my colleagues urging for these protections.”
Public health experts continue to call for social distancing measures and have warned against long lines and crowded polling locations throughout the primary election season. As many states turn towards the November elections, voters —especially those with disabilities, those in need of language assistance, and those without access to mail, who will need to vote in person — and poll workers fear the consequences of in-person voting. Meanwhile, President Trump and top Republicans in Congress have opposed vote-by-mail stipulations, endangered our democratic values, and put American voters at risk. This April, Gillibrand called for universal vote-by-mail to strengthen and uphold democratic systems amidst a global pandemic by permitting millions of Americans to conveniently and securely cast their ballots from home.
Senator Gillibrand has continuously stressed the importance of strengthening election infrastructure and protecting voting rights during the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, Gillibrand cosponsored the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 to expand early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states, and allow voters who did not receive an absentee ballot to use a printable ballot currently only provided for military and overseas voters. As the unprecedented national crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic raised concerns over election security and the need for immediate action to reinforce voting rights this November, Gillibrand called for critical provisions from the Voter Empowerment Act of 2019 (S. 549) and new emergency voting mechanisms to expand access to early voting, absentee ballots, and vote by mail. She led the introduction of the bicameral Voter Empowerment Act which would help protect the voting rights of people across the country by ensuring equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, modernizing voter registration, and helping to eliminate deceptive practices that deter people from voting.
Full text of the letter can be found here.