Clyburn, Lofgren Launch Investigation into States’ Preparations to Hold Free, Fair, and Safe Elections
Washington, D.C. (August 14, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chairperson of the Committee on House Administration, sent letters to election officials in four states—Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin—requesting information on the states’ plans to eliminate barriers faced by voters during this year’s primaries and ensure free, fair, and safe federal elections this November. The letters seek details on how the states will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending “[l]ower risk election polling settings” so that every voter is able to safely cast their ballot.
“No voter should be forced to wait for hours in line or risk their health to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote,” the Chairs wrote. “Election administrators can prevent these unacceptable outcomes by following [CDC] recommendations and offering adequate early voting, sufficient polling locations and hours, and mail-in or absentee voting options. Officials must plan now to avoid the last-minute consolidation or closure of polling sites, long lines, and shortages of poll workers.”
During the 2020 primaries, many voters across the country have faced long lines and closed or moved polling places. Many states also faced shortages of poll workers, which are likely to occur again during the general election this November. In 2018, nearly 6 in 10 poll workers were 61 or older, with over a quarter of poll workers over 70 years old—putting them at significant risk if exposed to the coronavirus. With the virus continuing to spread widely across the country, many may choose to opt out of working the polls in November.
The Chairs sent letters to officials in four states that did not open adequate polling locations and enlist enough poll workers during primaries earlier this year, leading to long lines and other barriers to voting.
In Florida, over 100 polling places were closed for the March primary, while in Wisconsin, just 3% of polling places—5 out of 180—were open in the city of Milwaukee for the April primary. In Texas and Georgia, voters faced lines over five hours to vote because of a lack of polling places and poll workers.
The Chairs wrote: “Problems during this year’s primary elections—including closed polling places, long lines, and poll worker shortages—raise concerns that some states may not be prepared to ensure every eligible voter can freely and safely cast their ballot in November.”
The Chairs urged state officials to follow CDC’s guidance, which calls for:
- More early voting. CDC called for “longer voting periods (more days and/or more hours)” and “increasing the number of polling locations available for early voting and extending the hours of operation.”
- More polling locations. CDC called on states to “maintain or increase the total number of polling places available to the public on Election Day to improve the ability to social distance.”
- Shorter lines & longer hours. “Unless there is no other option, do not increase the number of potential registered voters assigned to each polling place. Minimize lines as much as possible . . . . Offer early voting or extended hours.”
- More voting options. CDC called on states to “offer alternative voting methods that minimize direct contact and reduce crowd size at polling locations” including “alternatives to in-person voting.”
The Chairs requested that the state officials provide information by August 28, 2020, on their efforts to ensure sufficient polling places, prevent poll worker shortages, and protect voters’ health during the November election.
Click here to read today’s letter to Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee.
Click here to read today’s letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Click here to read today’s letter to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.
Click here to read today’s letter to Wisconsin Election Commission Chair Ann Jacobs.