SFCN Open Letter

Call to Action: An Open Letter from the State Future Caucus Network

Free, fair, and safe elections are the cornerstone of a resilient democracy — but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is putting that fundamental right at risk. Even worse, our country’s political polarization is needlessly exacerbating that threat. If our federal, state, and local governments fail to address the dangers the virus poses to our elections, it will continue to attack the health of our body politic.

We can’t allow political bickering to put American lives at risk, or to stand in the way of voter-first solutions. That’s why we, as bipartisan members of the State Future Caucus Network, are calling on elected officials across the country and in Congress to support common sense, post-partisan measures to ensure that this year’s elections are held with the integrity, legitimacy, and safety our citizens deserve. 

It’s critical that states act now to coordinate their preparedness plans, and communicate those plans to the voters early and consistently. There is too much uncertainty about the duration and severity of this pandemic. Unfortunately, we need to be prepared to hold all elections through November with a worst-case scenario in mind. With the increasing likelihood of a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall, polling reflects that between 67 percent and 76 percent of the electorate supports universal vote-by-mail for the 2020 general election. State and local officials must be ready to accommodate a pandemic-driven change in voting habits, and get the support from Congress to do so.

The administration of elections rightfully remains the duty and responsibility of state and local governments — that is without question. In this time of unprecedented crisis, however, the federal government must provide adequate funding to support additional safety measures. We can’t expand our election infrastructure and increase voter protection efforts irrespective of the tremendous cost that will be incurred. The federal government has the authority to backstop state efforts to ensure fair and safe voting throughout the remainder of this election cycle. 

Congress has already appropriated $400 million to aid states’ election administration under the CARES Act — a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that allowance falls woefully short of meeting  elections officials’ needs, a testament to the immensity of the problem we are seeking to remedy. Additionally, with many states now facing budgetary solvency issues, the required 20 percent state match to draw down those funds could become problematic. In all, the state match to utilize all $400 million in aid exceeds $79.5 million. We urge Congress to include more funding as part of the fourth stimulus package and avoid further conditional state matching requirements. 

We are also calling on states and local governments to immediately implement proven strategies to save the vote. Each state is unique and will need its own game plan to counter the electoral threat of the pandemic. These changes can be accomplished within the existing frameworks of election laws. For states that require an excuse for absentee voting, election officials should remove the excuse requirement or declare the COVID-19 public health crisis a legitimate excuse. In states that already allow for no-excuse absentee voting, provisions should be made to scale-up the mail voting apparatus in order to accommodate a higher volume of mailed ballots. No matter what, these plans must be communicated to the electorate as early as possible.

Still, in many states, some in-person voting must remain an option. We encourage states to minimize risks to voters and volunteers by limiting exposure and taking extra precautions. There are simple solutions — such as extending early voting and providing poll workers with adequate personal protective equipment — which go a long way to reduce congestion and allow for safe social distancing. If voters do choose to vote using an absentee ballot, we must simplify the ballot request process and leverage technology to enhance ballot security. At the end of the day, voters must have confidence that they are casting their vote in a safe, legitimate way that will be counted fairly. 

During a time of great uncertainty, one thing remains sure: American democracy demands elections, and elections require participation. Throughout the COVID crisis, we have seen members of our communities step up with compassion, bravery, and with the unfettered embodiment of ingenuity that is synonymous with the American spirit. It’s time for all elected officials to embody that same spirit, stand firmly together, and protect our citizens, our election officials and volunteers, and the integrity of our elections. 

By coming together as members of the State Future Caucus Network with the Future Caucus, we can ensure that voters have trust in the system however they choose to cast their ballot. We call on our elected colleagues in the states and in Congress to likewise stand united in their response to this crisis, and work together to safeguard our elections. Join our unified voice by emailing Alex Tapia at [email protected].


Rep. Sara Jacobs


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