On Wednesday, April 15, the Joint Center hosted an online briefing on accessible vote-by-mail and safe in-person voting for Black communities. The session—organized in partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and NAACP LDF— explored safeguards necessary to ensure an accessible vote-by-mail system that does not dilute Black votes, and ensures sanitized and uncrowded in-person polling places.
The expert panelists included:
- Fair Fight Founder Stacey Abrams
- Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
- Black Voters Matter Fund Co-Founder LaTosha Brown
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President Kristen Clarke
- Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta
- NAACP LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill
- Joint Center President Spencer Overton
We discussed: 1) the need for additional federal appointed funding in the next stimulus package; 2) an expansion of vote-by-mail in every state of the country by November; 3) an elimination of all barriers that prevent voter accessibility and safety.
Respondents highlighted several priorities and policy ideas, including:
- The need for a revitalized voting system in our country. Last week’s Wisconsin election illuminated the broken system as citizens compromised their health to vote. In Milwaukee, only 5 polling sites were open compared to the usual 120;
- Provide a wide array of voting options including: expanded early voting, absentee voting, same day voter registration, curbside voting, absentee ballot drop-off, absentee mail-in voting, online registration, automatic voter registration, prepaid postage, on-site voting that is safe and secure;
- Expanding voter education to ensure every citizen has the knowledge they need to exercise their voting rights and access information;
- Creating safeguards against voting barriers (unfair rejection of absentee ballots, election fraud, intimidation);
- Federal funding without matching requirements from states;
- Providing a multitude of vote anywhere centers that protect citizens as they vote;
- Leadership and partnership from state government officials to establish state-by-state accountability;
- Leveraging the power of the CBC;
- Addressing vote-by-mail as a filter to make in-person voting safer, not as a replacement. There are barriers to vote-by-mail that must be accounted for, i.e. displaced communities have to vote in person as vote-by-mail is not an option;
- Establishing a protocol that keeps poll workers safe and recruits young people (create guidelines on how voting books are handled, make sure every person standing in line has a mask and gloves, machines should be wiped down and cleaned);
- Addressing the cultural dynamic of voting for people of color and Native American populations;
- Exploring innovative ways to reach young voters, activate congregates, canvass, and expand election jobs and training in the summer;
- Supporting civil rights organizations that are working on voting mobilization.
This is the Joint Center’s third online policy forum on COVID-19 and Black communities. To read about our previous online policy forum with FCC Commissioner Starks, click here. To read about our first online policy forum with CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), click here.