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U.S. PIRG Calls on States to Adopt Emergency Absentee Voting

For Immediate Release

NEW YORK -- The continued spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses a real threat to America’s elections, not just through the current primaries but into the November general election. While many states have plans in place to deal with emergencies, including power outages and natural disasters, very few states are prepared to successfully run an election in a situation where large public gatherings present a public health risk. 

To ensure that every eligible voter can safely cast their ballot amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. PIRG is calling on all states to adopt emergency universal absentee voting.

Joe Ready, Democracy for the People campaign director for U.S. PIRG, released the following statement:

“While the current public health crisis is a unique situation, it highlights an underlying flaw in America’s elections systems. A functional democracy depends on participation. If people are unable to safely get to polling places, states need to change their elections to accommodate the voters. 

“The answer is absentee voting -- a system that exists and is already in use in some places. In most states, if a person is unable to physically make it to the polls, they can request an absentee ballot be sent to their address, vote from home, and mail their ballot back to be counted. 

“U.S. PIRG is calling on every state to establish an emergency universal absentee voting system to eliminate the need to physically go to the polls at a time where doing so could put voters’ health at risk. This would allow all registered voters to be mailed an absentee ballot if physically visiting the polls were unsafe.

“To implement emergency universal absentee voting successfully, states must have systems like online voter registration in place to ensure that all eligible voters receive ballots. Online voter registration is fast, efficient and secure. It’s a system that states should have, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic. States will also likely need to invest in expanded voting infrastructure for counting absentee ballots. 

“On many issues, states are the laboratories of democracy -- and voting systems are no different. Oregon and Colorado have universal vote by mail, and several other states allow people to automatically receive absentee ballots at their home.  

“There are existing systems and best practices to ensure the integrity of our elections. In challenging times, we can come together, share expertise, and ensure safe successful elections.”

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