On Wednesday, July 8, the Joint Center convened a panel of experts for an online policy forum with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to discuss safe and fair elections in the midst of a pandemic, opportunities to increase Black voter turnout, and preserving the integrity of elections.
In addition to Congresswoman Fudge, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Administration Subcommittee on Elections, expert respondents included National Coalition on Black Civic Participation CEO Melanie Campbell and Colorado Division of Elections Director Judd Choate.
We discussed: 1) the importance of Federal funding to help states prepare for November 2020 elections 2) the processes, procedures, and necessity of implementing vote-by-mail 3) protocols for safe in-person voting and 4) mechanisms to yield high Black voter turnout in the upcoming election.
The respondents highlighted several important actions for federal policymakers, state and local policymakers and election officials, and community organizations to take to ensure safe and accessible voting for Black communities and all communities including:
- Allocating the $3.6 billion for safe and fair elections designated by the HEROES Act so that states can implement new equipment, digital election-related education, adequate hiring of poll workers, and to increase polling locations for in-person voting. This funding is especially important given reduced revenues for state governments during the current economic crisis;
- Educating voters on voting regulations and all of their voting options, and ensuring local elected officials and federal elected officials are aware of public need;
- Shedding light on the safety and security of vote-by-mail. Vote-by-mail fraud happens less frequently than at polling locations because vote-by-mail requires more meticulous list maintenance and protocols to address fraud;
- Increasing the number of poll workers who are not at high risk for COVID-19 can ensure that election officials can operate a sufficient number of polling places and prevent opening too few polling places which can lower Black voter turnout disproportionately. Election officials may consider hiring high school or college students because poll workers and election judges need to be technologically savvy. When considering how to recruit more poll workers, states may need to adjust unemployment insurance regulations to ensure that unemployed workers will not be penalized for taking temporary poll worker or election judge roles. Creative messaging across social media platforms is important to recruit next generation poll workers;
- Engaging Black voters and helping communities understand vote-by-mail as a viable option must start now, Black voters need to understand the vote-by-mail process and begin getting applications in;
- Every single vote counts.
This is the Joint Center’s sixth online policy forum on COVID-19 and Black communities following an online briefing with key leaders on Black businesses, access to capital, and future stimulus proposals (here), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor Bobby Scott (D-VA) on education and workforce priorities (here), a briefing for CBC staffers on accessible vote-by-mail and safe in-person voting for Black communities (here), a briefing with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks on COVID-19 and the digital divide and a connectivity stimulus (here), and an online policy forum with CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA) on the implications of congressional responses to COVID-19 on Black communities (here).