Secretaries of state ask for additional election support funding in light of coronavirus

Eleven state secretaries of state are requesting additional funding from Congress to address potential election issues when voters come to the polls in November.

“We write in strong support of additional federal funding to enable the smooth and safe administration of elections in 2020,” the 10 Democrats and one Republican wrote to senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“The stakes are high. And time is short,” the secretaries of state wrote, representing the states of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Colorado, Arizona, Washington state, New Mexico, California, Vermont, Michigan and New Jersey.

The plea comes as the inclusion of funds of additional election support in an upcoming congressional stimulus bill remains uncertain. The $2 trillion CARES Act passed in May included $400 million “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.”

While the House’s stimulus proposal in May would grant $3.6 billion for “contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office,” the Senate proposal unveiled this week does not include any such support, and negotiations on the bill have stalled.

The secretaries wrote that they need more funding beyond that in the previous stimulus bill to address anticipated increased election production costs.

“Current funding levels help to offset, but do not cover, the unexpectedly high costs that state and local governments face in trying to administer safe and secure elections this year,” they wrote. “Additional funding would be particularly critical in ensuring that local jurisdictions have sufficient staff to handle the many unforeseen challenges that will come with conducting a national election during a pandemic.”

The secretaries of state highlighted on-the-ground challenges that elections held during the pandemic have already faced, such as “huge volumes of last-minute absentee ballot applications, unexpected shortages of poll workers, and difficulty of procuring and distributing supplies.”

“As we anticipate significantly higher voter turnout in the November General Election, we believe those kinds of problems could be even larger,” they warned.

Federal lawmakers addressed issues of additional election funding specifically focused on security on Friday.

Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju on Friday about whether Democrats will insist on including funding for election security in the stimulus package, Pelosi declined to take a firm position but said it is “a very essential priority” for them.

The White House said Friday that “states need to get their act together” in securing elections but refused to say why the administration was not seeking to provide states more money to do so. When pressed on how the administration would work to help states bolster their systems, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered no answer.

“States run their elections,” she said, saying it was up to them to secure their systems.

McConnell has previously pointed to existing election support for states as an answer for why it does not appear in his party’s most recent stimulus proposal. He told a reporter on Monday, “We’ve already appropriated an awful lot of money for election assistance.”

“What we’re not going to do is federalize the American election system, which is basically conducted in every single state in very different ways,” he added. “We provided plenty of financial assistance, but we’re not going to tell them how to conduct their elections during the pandemic or in my view in the future either. That’s why there’s not additional money in there for election assistance.”