Talks on next big virus relief package start, voting aid in limbo
As negotiations intensify on the final major coronavirus relief package before November, a last-ditch if somewhat optimistic lobbying push is underway to get hundreds of millions for safe and comprehensive elections into the bill.
Top administration officials are laying out President Trump's opening bid to congressional leaders of both parties Tuesday. While his proposed payroll tax cut, aid to state and local governments, and school funding will get headlines, there's also a looming clash over aid for states to conduct the general election.
Trump is emphatically opposed to expanded voting by mail, falsely claiming it's a proven incubator of substantial election fraud. But many Republicans in Congress say that, since a surge of absentee voting is inevitable because of the pandemic, they should help election administrators pay for equipment, supplies and people who can assure the voting is perceived as comprehensive and the results accurate.
Democracy reform advocates have gone public with a concern they've been harboring privately for months: Joe Biden and the Democrats are not making fix-the-system proposals a big enough part of their campaign.
A coalition of 29 groups pressed the party's platform committee on Monday "to adopt a sweeping pro-democracy set of reforms, and make their passage and implementation a top priority in 2021."
Although Biden is viewed as a reliable supporter of items on the group's agenda — expanding voting rights, curbing money's sway over campaigns, bolstering government ethics and calibrating the balance of power — the former vice president is seen by advocacy groups as giving such desires insufficient notice. With the campaign now galvanized by the coronavirus pandemic and its crippling of the economy, the ability of other issues to break through could prove extremely difficult.
Proponents of expanded voting by mail during the pandemic won victories Monday in three states, two of them solid blue but one of them reliably red.
The top elections official in Alabama, a Republican, decreed that fear of the coronavirus would be reason enough to vote absentee for president this year. Vermont joined the handful of states that have decided to send return-by-mail ballots to all voters for the general election. And Connecticut's plans to open mail voting to everyone in next month's primary survived a GOP lawsuit.
The various decisions come as policymakers and courts across the country continue to deliberate proposals for separating Covid-19 from the voting booth — a problem that remains intense now that it's clear the nation's public health crisis will continue way beyond November.
As protests sweep the country in response to continued police violence against Black people, many democracy reform leaders say that achieving racial justice and fixing our broken political system are two sides of the same coin. Amendments to the Constitution have been rooted in protecting the rights of citizens and making the system more accessible to those who had been excluded, including Black and Native Americans and women. Democracy reform has, from its inception, been about bringing about allowing all Americans to have a viable voice in our government.
The Fulcrum convened reform leaders to talk about the importance of leaning into the diversity of the movement and how the foundations of democracy reform are built on social justice and civil rights.
"Approval voting gave power back to voters by allowing them to share their opinion on each and every candidate on the ballot," write Caitlyn Alley Peña and Chris Raleigh of the Center for Election Science.
Digital and tech entrepreneur and best-selling author Cheryl Contee, digital campaign veteran Bradley Engle, and political communication professor at Emerson College and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Vincent Raynauld join Project on Ethics in Political Communication director Peter Loge to talk about digital and online campaign ethics.