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Senate coronavirus bill includes $400mn in election assistance

The Guardian’s Joan E Greve and Sam Levine report:

The Senate coronavirus bill includes $400 million in election assistance, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The funds are meant to ensure states can continue to hold fair elections as the country grapples with the pandemic.

A number of states have had to delay their presidential primaries in recent weeks out of fear of spreading the virus at polling places.

Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups have called on states to expand no-excuse absentee voting and vote by mail to protect Americans’ right to vote while respecting the social distancing guidelines outlined by the CDC.

The $400 million allocated in the Senate bill will assist those efforts, but the figure is well short of the $2 billion that the Brennan Center for Justice has said will be needed to ensure the November elections take place on time and in a fair manner.

The figure is also a fraction of the $4 billion House Democrats proposed in their own stimulus package, but it marks an increase from the $140 million originally suggested by Senate Republicans.

Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor at the Democracy Fund who works closely on election administration, said the money would likely be enough to cover some vote by mail costs for sending ballots, such as printing and postage for states scaling up.

She said she wasn’t sure if the money would cover central tabulation for states without it as well as signature verification and voter education.

“It is far too little to fully enable states to do what should be done, but probably enough to do what has to be done,” she said.

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