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The House votes on the American Rescue Plan, President Biden signs orders to advance gender equity, and with legislation pending to protect voting rights, pressure grows to end the Senate tactic of the filibuster.

Voting Rights Groups Praise Sen. Harris’ 'VoteSafe Act'

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A new bill in the U.S. Senate would allocate $5 billion to help states make voting easier and more convenient. (Dodgerton Skillhause)
A new bill in the U.S. Senate would allocate $5 billion to help states make voting easier and more convenient. (Dodgerton Skillhause)
April 17, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Voting rights groups are praising the 'VoteSafe Act of 2020,' introduced in Congress yesterday by California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris.

The bill would set aside $5 billion to expand voting by mail and early voting ahead of the November presidential election. Matt Barreto, professor of political science at UCLA and faculty director of the UCLA Voting Rights Project, says California already allows permanent, no-excuse absentee voting and early voting - so it isn't out of the question for other states.

"Some of the more rural counties have already transitioned to 100% vote-by-mail, and do automatically send out ballots to all voters," says Barreto. "So, we're already seeing that in parts of California."

President Donald Trump believes voting by mail would hurt GOP candidates, but a recent UCLA study shows that no party gains an advantage, and red states like Utah and Arizona have used mail-in ballots for years. In addition, the study found that the incidence voter fraud is so minuscule as to make it a nonissue.

The bill would also require all states to allow 20 days of early voting. Baretto points out that the COVID-19 crisis had made it unsafe for voters to wait in long lines, crowd into polling places and touch voting machines used by hundreds of other people.

"The more options we give, that means that there's less people that have to go to the polls on Election Day and risk their health," says Barreto.

He notes that making voting more convenient is especially helpful to low-income voters who may not be able to take time off work to wait in voting lines.

Sen. Harris' bill would also provide grants for states and explore ways to allow curbside voting, to share wait times at polling places, and to make elections more accessible for voters with disabilities.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Foundation of New York.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA