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[2020 Elections]
In the letter, the Task Force recommends that states move immediately to expand early voting and absentee voting by mail, institute safeguards for in-person voting, and adopt alternatives to in-person voting such as curbside voting to ensure accessibility.
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Task Force Implores State Officials to Begin Planning Now in Order to Avoid Election Day Catastrophe.

Wednesday, the National Task Force on Election Crises sent a letter to the governors, secretaries of state, state election directors, and legislative leaders of all 50 states and the District of Columbia urging them to accelerate preparations for a safe 2020 general election in case we face a continued, or renewed, COVID-19 threat.

In the letter, the Task Force recommends that states move immediately to expand early voting and absentee voting by mail, institute safeguards for in-person voting, and adopt alternatives to in-person voting such as curbside voting to ensure accessibility. The letter notes that accomplishing these efforts will require advance planning and additional federal funding. The letter closely follows recommendations in the Task Force’s COVID-19 Election Guide.

For scaling up vote-by-mail…[there are] dozens of steps that must be completed between April 1 and Election Day. This includes a three-part process of creating applications for absentee ballots, sending ballots to voters, and processing completed ballots. Safe early voting and in-person voting will similarly require advanced planning to recruit poll workers who are less vulnerable to the virus, prepare for sanitizing polling places, and enforce social distancing, among other implementation hurdles,” the Task Force states in the letter. “The timeline for these measures is tight; that work must start today.”

The Task Force’s COVID-19 Election Guide, released in March, addresses how state and local officials can protect voters’ ability to cast ballots without undue risk to their own health or to the broader community. Those recommendations are divided into three categories.

  • Preparing to conduct wide-scale voting by mail. Depending on the state, this may include proactively mailing absentee ballot request or application forms to all voters; ensuring that the pandemic qualifies as an “excuse” for absentee voting where necessary; extending the deadlines for requesting and returning absentee ballots; waiving witness and notary requirements; and planning ahead to secure adequate supplies and other resources.
  • Ensuring that in-person voting is as safe and accessible as possible. This includes maximizing early voting days and hours; increasing access to alternatives like curbside voting; reconsidering the number and location of polling places; sanitizing polling places and enforcing social distancing; and recruiting more poll workers.
  • Communicating proactively and transparently with voters. This includes publicizing (and explaining) any changes to election rules or processes early and often; making information available in multiple languages and on multiple platforms; and preparing the public for likely delays in reporting election results.

While the CARES Act has allocated $400 million in election assistance to states, those funds are not sufficient to meet the challenge. The letter encourages state leaders to demand additional funds from Congress to cover the significant cost of conducting the general election during an unprecedented public health crisis.

Follow the Task Force on Twitter at @ElectionTask.

The National Task Force on Election Crises is a diverse, cross-partisan group of more than 40 experts in election law, election administration, national security, cybersecurity, voting rights, civil rights, technology, public health, and emergency response. The mission of the nonpartisan National Task Force on Election Crises is to ensure a free and fair 2020 general election by recommending responses to a range of potential election crises.

The Task Force does not advocate for any electoral outcome except an election that is free and fair. The Task Force was convened by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. Protect Democracy’s staff supports the work of the Task Force, and in doing so has drawn on assistance from Jenner & Block, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, the Democracy & Rule of Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the William & Mary Election Law Society.

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