Federal agency expedites sending congressional election funds to states
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is speeding up the process of sending recently appropriated funds to states to help bolster elections during the coronavirus pandemic.
The EAC announced late last week that it planned to send funding to states that they can use for measures such as boosting mail-in and absentee voting, along with hiring more poll workers and buying sanitization supplies, by the end of next week.
The agency noted in its announcement that it is “moving as quickly as possible” to provide exact guidance to states on how they can use these funds.
The funds sent to states will draw from the $400 million given to the EAC as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE late last month.
“State and local jurisdictions across the country are facing unexpected and rapidly increasing costs to mail ballots, move polling sites, and ensure the safety of voters, staff, and election workers,” EAC Chairman Ben Hovland said in a statement. “I am thankful that Congress recognized the need to help support state and local election officials by offsetting some of the increased costs of administering elections during this challenging time.”
EAC Vice Chairman Don Palmer emphasized in a separate statement that “the EAC is working expeditiously to distribute this federal money that will help states to protect voters and the integrity of our election process.”
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The commissioners noted that both the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget had been assisting in the effort to get the money to states, as postponed primaries loom and state officials increasingly scramble to make preparations to allow the elections to continue.
Democrats and other voting rights advocates have strongly pushed for Congress to include a further $1.6 million to assist states with elections in the next coronavirus stimulus package, along with requirements on how states can use these funds.
State election officials have pushed for the funds, with a group of 51 state and territory Democratic Party chairs signing an open letter asking for “at least $2 billion” from Congress. Secretaries of state from both parties have also supported further funding.
Many Republicans, including President Trump, have pushed back, voicing concerns that comprehensive voting by mail would hurt Republicans’ election chances.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi: Georgia primary ‘disgrace’ could preview an election debacle in November MORE (D-Calif.) has vowed to push for more funding in the next coronavirus relief bill, though with Congress out until at least April 20, it is unclear when that legislation will be passed.
The new funds from Congress are on top of $425 million for election security purposes given to states as part of the 2020 appropriations cycle in December. The EAC announced last month that these funds, which have not yet been doled out but against which states are allowed to incur expenses, could be used to purchase cleaning supplies to fight the spread of the coronavirus.