At Senate Rules Committee Hearing On 2020 General Election Preparations, Schumer Demands More Federal Resources In Next COVID-19 Relief Legislation For Localities To Hold Safe Elections In November

July 22, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke at the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Committee hearing on 2020 general election preparations regarding the need for Congress to provide additional federal resources in the next COVID-19 relief legislation to ensure localities can hold safe elections in November. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
 
Last week, after six decades as one of our nation’s most pre-eminent civil rights leaders, Congressman John Lewis passed away.
 
His trials, his tribulations, and ultimately his triumphs, are well known to us all. His actions as a young man helped change the trajectory of a nation and brought about the Voting Rights Act, perhaps the most important piece of civil rights legislation this Congress has ever passed.
 
Unfortunately, many of the old enemies John faced down have not yet been vanquished. Racial disparities persist and gnaw at the fabric of our democracy. The law that John Lewis nearly died for has been gutted by the Supreme Court, and, unfortunately, only one political party seems interested to restore it.
 
We meet today – some in person and some virtually – on the subject of elections and the fundamental right of every American citizen to be able to vote: something John Lewis spent his whole life marching for.
 
And as we mourn his loss, I’d ask my fellow Americans, including my colleagues on this Committee of both parties to take up his loss, take up his mission.
 
In 103 days, our nation will seek to hold an election in the face of unprecedented challenges.
 
We all know administering a national election is a complicated endeavor under even the most favorable of conditions. And doing so while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is downright harrowing.
 
States and localities need resources to make the adjustments necessary to ensure that every eligible American who wishes to cast a ballot can do so safely.
 
Independent experts estimate the federal government would need to provide $3.6 billion in additional funding in order to ensure that state and local officials have what they need to meet this challenge.
 
The Heroes Act, which passed the House more than two months ago, provides that amount along with critical protections related to mail-in voting, in-person voting, voter registration, and other things.
 
Unfortunately, as localities prepare for the 2020 election and urge more federal resources to hold safe elections, that legislation has languished in the Senate while President Trump and some Congressional Republicans have spread misinformation about voting by mail.
 
The lack of urgency from our Senate Republican leadership, and I know you’re trying very hard Chairman Blunt to get something done here, but the leadership is not giving us what they really need in providing these desperately needed resources. And that should appall most Americans.
 
John Lewis’s mission was to restore the right to vote. The best way to keep his legacy alive is not simply giving good speeches on the floor, as important and nice as they are, but is to make sure that right to vote—even during this COVID crisis—is preserved, protected, and not abused.
 
Just last week the Majority Leader dismissed the pernicious voter suppression that corrodes our democracy to this very day as “nonsense that the Democrats are promoting”.
 
The callous way in which these remarks completely dismiss the experience of Black and Latino voters who have to wait 45-46% longer on average than white persons to cast a ballot, often as a result of intentional polling closures, we’ve seen it in state after state, is jarring.
 
I acknowledge there are legitimate policy disputes on how best to preserve the economy, protect public health, provide a quality education to the students in the midst of this crisis.
 
But one thing that should not be in dispute, however, is whether Congress should provide the resources experts and officials from across the political spectrum warn are so desperately needed to protect the November election.
 
We need to prepare for an unprecedented flood of mail-in ballots by ensuring the Postal Service has sufficient funding and makes no detrimental changes to their operations that could have negative impact on elections this fall. 
 
We’re talking about the very wellspring of our wonderful democracy: free and fair elections. It shouldn’t be an issue about Right and Left, because it’s an issue of right and wrong.
 
Members from both sides of the aisle have released heartfelt statements in recent days honoring the life of John Lewis.
 
Over the next few weeks every member of this body will have an opportunity to make it abundantly clear where they actually stand on the most critical component of John Lewis’s legacy: his unwavering belief in the fundamental right of every American citizen to cast a ballot free from undue burden.
 
Speeches are fine, but John Lewis would prefer action. Action means supporting the legislation in the Heroes bill.
 
As we debate the next round of COVID-relief, Democrats will insist on providing states the resources to carry out our elections fairly, safely, and efficiently. And I hope—I hope—our Republican friends will join us.
 
It’s nice to make grand statements about the unparalleled life of John Lewis; paying lip service to his legacy but without taking meaningful action would be the height of hypocrisy. 
 

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