On Monday, House Republicans led by Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill) introduced the Emergency Assistance for Safe Elections (Ease) Act. The EASE Act aims to help states administer elections safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation is also sponsored by Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Dan Meuser (R-PA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Mike Garcia (R-CA), and Steve Chabot (R-OH).
On the introduction of the Act, Rep. Davis rightly notes that most Americans still want to vote in person. The EASE act recolonizes that while enhancing the security of mail in voting. As Rep. Davis stated:
A recent poll found that 59% of Americans still prefer to vote in person. The EASE Act helps states offer people a safe way to vote in person and makes mail-in voting options more secure by ensuring their voter rolls are clean and ballots are only mailed to, and from, the individuals actually residing at that residence. Most states are faced with running essentially two kinds of elections this fall: in-person and expanded mail-in voting, which means added costs to get it right. When states failed to do this in recent primaries, the risk of disenfranchising voters increased significantly. Voters waited up to 5 hours to vote in some areas because polling places were significantly reduced and tens of thousands of ballots were not counted because they didn’t arrive on time. It’s critical we include this bill in the next coronavirus relief package to help states start planning now. Continuing to engage with local election officials and provide oversight of states will be necessary to protect the right to vote in the November election.
Congresswoman Stefanik discussed how the EASE act allowed voters to make the choice on how they wanted to vote:
States are facing an unprecedented challenge in keeping this year’s elections safe and secure for all voters and volunteers, while implementing the proper protocols to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. This important legislation will provide our local election administrators with the resources they need to keep polling places clean, provide the proper PPE to volunteers, and make sure that voters can either safely vote in person or opt to submit a mail-in ballot. This bill will ensure the mail-in voting process is more secure and help our states as they navigate this challenge. I will continue to support legislation and initiatives to protect our elections and ensure that North Country voters are able to participate safely and securely.
According to House Administration Republicans press release on the the legislation, the Act:
- Ensure polling places are clean and safe for voters. Authorizes $200 million to help local election administrators ensure polling places are clean and safe for voters. Funds could be used for disinfecting equipment for voting machines, personal protective equipment (PPE) for poll workers, etc.
- Recruit a new generation of poll workers. The shortage of poll workers is an issue faced by election administrators across the country because the typical poll worker is 65 or older, which is a designated at-risk population for the coronavirus. The bill provides $100 million to recruit younger volunteers by establishing a program to help pay part of the student loan costs of people who serve as poll workers.
- Cleaning their voter rolls. Outdated state voter rolls increase the risk for fraud, especially when vote-by-mail is expanded. The bill provides $100 million to help state and local officials clean their voter rolls and maintain accurate voter registration lists.
- Secure non-voting technology. We have seen an influx of next-generation technology, such as e-pollbooks, being used at polling places. This bill updates the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which established voluntary guidelines for voting machines, to secure non-voting technology.
- Prevents ballot harvesting. Recently, the results of a congressional election in North Carolina was invalidated because of fraud associated with ballot harvesting. Preventing ballot harvesting, where political operatives go door-to-door collecting ballots, is not only critical to protecting the integrity of our elections everywhere, but also maintaining social distancing guidelines that keep people safe from coronavirus. This bill bans ballot harvesting.
Republican National Lawyers Association Executive Director Michael Thielen applauds the introduction of the Act:
The EASE Act provides assistance to election officials to help them administer open, fair, and honest elections during this challenging pandemic. Unlike the House Democrats’ legislative efforts to override state election laws and place unfunded, unrealistic mandates on the states, the EASE Act works with the states to provide much-needed funding and support. It should receive bipartisan support.
Congressional Republicans continue to take the lead in addressing the unprecedented circumstances that Americans are experiencing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic while Democratic officials are using it as an opportunity to alter the election system to benefit their political aims.