Today, the House passed the HEROES Act (“CARES 2.0”) relief package, which included $3.6 billion in funding to protect our 2020 elections. In response, Jana Morgan, Director of the Declaration for American Democracy – a coalition of more than 160 organizations from the labor, racial justice, faith, women’s rights, environmental, good government, and many other important communities – issued the following statement:
“We applaud the House and Speaker Pelosi for prioritizing adequate funding and common-sense reforms that will ensure Americans do not have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and safeguarding their health and that of their families in this year’s elections.
We call on the Senate to adopt the election security language and funding recommendations in the HEROES Act so critical voting reforms can be implemented by state and local election officials in the coming weeks. The countdown clock is ticking. All Americans deserve equal access to the ballot box and the time to act is now.”
Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee:
“I want to commend House Democrats for their much-needed leadership as the nation continues its response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The HEROES Act not only addresses the pressing economic needs of American workers, but also includes protections that will bolster our democratic process.
The country’s hardest-hit communities should not have to worry about safely casting a ballot in addition to the multitude of other issues that they are facing. November is right around the corner, and the HEROES Act contains urgent priorities that will protect Americans’ right to vote in the Fall. The bill takes common-sense steps to provide nationwide no-excuse absentee voting, online and election day registration, 15 days of early voting, and support for the Postal Service. These are measures that should not be viewed through a partisan lens and are necessary to protect every American’s ability to safely cast a ballot. No voter should ever have to make the un-American choice of protecting their health or participating in an election.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president at Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“As the pandemic continues, the needs of communities across the country and the world grow every day. We also can’t lose sight of the fact that women, and disproportionately women of color, make up the majority of essential workers keeping those communities afloat — including health care workers fighting COVID-19.
“The HEROES Act would provide desperately needed resources to protect those on the frontlines so they can continue their work, support families struggling from income loss, and secure the integrity of our elections so that we can move forward, together.
“We thank Speaker Pelosi for leading this critical legislation through the House — there is no time to waste, as some in the Senate are suggesting. The Senate must build on this strong foundation for a domestic response from the House and Congress should pass comprehensive legislation that supports women, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with low incomes, immigrants, people who live at the intersections of these identities, and families in the U.S. and around the world.
“Beyond this bill, there’s more to be done to address the physical, emotional, and economic damage caused by this disease and the administration’s failed response to its spread. We’ll keep working to help families, support safety-net providers as they protect their communities, and restore global partnerships. And as always, we’ll never stop fighting for policies and leaders who understand the systemic inequities that have made this pandemic so much worse for low-income people and communities of color, and who will ensure that our government is equipped, willing, and able to address the next public health crisis.”
Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, Climate Hawks Vote Earthjustice, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Future Coalition, Greenpeace USA, Hip Hop Caucus, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Climate Reality Project, Union of Concerned Scientists:
“We, the undersigned environmental organizations, urge you to prioritize, in response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the appropriation of at least $4 billion in state funding to ensure safe and secure elections in 2020. Protecting our air, water, climate, and communities are inextricably linked to the protection of our democracy, and we must work toward solutions that solve these issues in lockstep.
Our organizations believe we need a democracy that works for everyone in order to overcome this public health crisis, as well as to address the ongoing threats to our climate and communities. All communities, especially those who carry the greatest burden of environmental injustice, must have equal access to the pillars of our democracy, from equitable participation in elections, an equal seat at the table in government decision making, and equal access to justice in fair and independent courts.
We support immediate and comprehensive election funding that will protect the voice of communities who often see the worst of climate change and environmental degradation: communities of color, low-income communities, immigrant communities, native populations, the disabled, and young people in particular. These are the same communities suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our elected officials must ensure our public health and that everyone can register, cast a ballot, and have their vote counted. Rather than asking millions of voters to follow a one-size-fits-all approach, policymakers must give voters multiple options for casting a vote in this year’s elections. This will be vital for people without Internet and mail access, those who need assistance voting in their primary language, and people with disabilities who rely on voting machines to vote. Efforts like these not only help prepare our states for elections this year but help to safeguard a more fair and equitable democracy moving forward.
The dual crises of rapid climate change and the global spread of the coronavirus has made it more clear than ever that proactive measures are needed to ensure that every voice is heard. We do not, and should not, have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy. We must advance our democracy so that it is representative of and responsive to 21st-century issues and all the people that call this country home. This means bold, comprehensive, democratic action to create an inclusive system that’s responsive to all communities, no matter where they come from, how much money they have, and/or the color of their skin. Democracy means a government of, by, and for the people. All people.”
Tiffany Muller, President of Let America Vote and ECU Action Fund:
“Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats have delivered on the $3.6 billion states will need to conduct safe, accessible, and fair elections in 2020. The coronavirus has upended American life but it does not have to upend American democracy. Whatever legislation comes out of the Senate must include this funding or we are asking for disaster in November when millions of Americans could be forced to cast a ballot in unsafe conditions during a global pandemic. The American people want to vote and do it safely so the Senate must deliver for them.”
Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause:
“The HEROES Act takes critical steps to help secure essential pillars of our democracy undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic while providing a huge boost to address the public health and economic crises. The bill provides important bulwarks to help safeguard our elections, the Census, the U.S. Postal Service, and includes enhanced oversight requirements for the stimulus package that were sorely lacking in CARES Act passed by Congress in late March.
Unfortunately, the legislation does not provide adequate relief for local news outlets that provide vital information to communities but have seen their revenue streams dry up during the pandemic – a time when local news coverage is essential. Ultimately the stimulus package must provide targeted support for local news rather than simply provide relief for broadcast and newspaper conglomerates. However, we commend Speaker Pelosi and the House of Representatives for passing the comprehensive HEROES Act that addresses many key democracy priorities for which we have been advocating.
The HEROES Act contains increased investments for state and local elections while removing the state match requirement at a time when budgets are facing massive shortfalls. The bill provides critical funding for the Postal Service and additional investments in the Census so everyone can be counted.
It makes significant investments in broadband to ensure robust and affordable connectivity for low-income households and Americans who have recently lost jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic. Broadband access is essential now more than ever and no American should go without connectivity. The legislation also clarifies the FCC’s authority to regulate prison phone rates within a state while directing the agency to adopt rules to make prison phone rates just and reasonable. Exorbitant prison phone rates have long been cruel but are completely unacceptable during a health crisis as families must to stay connected with loved ones who are incarcerated.
Coupled with additional oversight requirements for the programs in the stimulus package, we feel this bill represents a strong and necessary response to the perils we face as a nation that threaten our economy, our public health, and our democracy.
Although Senate Majority Leader McConnell has stated that he is in no hurry to consider another emergency COVID-19 stimulus package, we hope he will come around at a time when more than 80,000 Americans have died and hundreds of thousands more have been infected with coronavirus wreaking havoc on our economy, our health care system, and our democracy. We hope that the House-Senate negotiations will lead to legislation that will include robust funding to support local journalism targeted at preserving newsrooms and reporting jobs at local outlets. Amidst a pandemic, committed local journalists can quite literally save lives by passing critical information to the public.
We will continue to urge our 1.2 million members to contact their U.S. Senators to demand that they quickly pass another stimulus package that addresses the crises faced by our health care system, our economy, and our democracy.”
Dave Jones, President of Clean Elections Texas:
“The American people should not have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy. We should not have to risk our lives to exercise our right to vote.”