WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip, along with U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH), on Tuesday in introducing the VoteSafe Act, legislation to expand voting options and improve the safety and accessibility of polling places across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must always do everything that we can to ensure the health and safety of Ohioans during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic – that includes making sure they are able to cast a vote without the fear of contracting this deadly virus,” said Brown. “This legislation takes important steps to ensure that voters are able to cast ballots without risking their personal wellbeing.”

“As our country combats COVID-19, we’re also in the middle of an election year,” said Sen. Harris. “It is critical that we meet voters where they are and ensure that all forms of voting are safe and accessible. That is why I am proud to partner with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Rep. Marcia Fudge to introduce the VoteSafe Act, which is centered on the experiences of communities that have long struggled with access to the ballot box.”

“The right to vote is a basic American right and our democracy depends on our citizens having access to the ballot box,” said House Majority Whip Clyburn. “The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the many challenges Americans face while voting, which is why I’m proud to join Senator Harris and Congresswoman Fudge to introduce the VoteSafe Act today, because it expands voting options to include no-excuse vote by mail and early voting, as well as improve access to voter registration. This legislation ensures that polling locations and its workers have the resources they need to not only keep themselves safe, but also keep the public safe during this public health crisis. We must act now to protect every American’s basic right to vote and guarantee that when people do vote, they are safe and have equal access to the ballot box.” 

“While the health and safety of voters is a top priority during the current public health emergency, we must make sure the pandemic does not impede full, unfettered access to the ballot box,” said Rep. Fudge, Chair of the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections. “Voters must have safe, accessible options and sufficient time to cast their ballots without unnecessary confusion and potential voter disenchantment. Congress has the responsibility to ensure every eligible American can exercise their right to vote. I am proud to cosponsor the VoteSafe Act and any legislation preventing and removing barriers to the ballot box; barriers that have plagued our democracy for far too long.”      

This year, multiple primary elections were besieged by public health concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, in Wisconsin, voters experienced long lines and hours-long wait times, after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a court order that would have extended the period for voters to return absentee ballots—forcing many voters to vote in-person at a limited number of polling places. Multiple voters tested positive for COVID-19 after this election.

The VoteSafe Act would:

  • Require states to provide no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for the 2020 elections and guarantee minimum due process protections for these voters;
  • Require states to maintain an early in-person voting period of at least 20 days for the 2020 elections;
  • Authorize $2.5 billion for states to meet their obligations to offer no-excuse absentee voting and early in-person voting; and
  • Provide $2.5 billion in additional discretionary grant funding for states to further improve the safety and accessibility of voting options during the pandemic, including:
    • Ensuring that elections are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
    • Ensuring adequate protections for language minority voters.
    • Ensuring voting access for American Indian, Alaska Native, and rural voters.
    • Implementing and promoting curbside voting.
    • Implementing and meeting a maximum wait time standard or publishing current wait times for voters.
    • Providing for the training and recruitment of poll workers.
    • Improving access to voter registration.

Bill text can be found here.

A one pager on the bill can be found here.

Additional supportive quotes can be found here.