May's House-passed coronavirus relief bill included $3.6 billion for election assistance, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up.
Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub called on Donald Trump and Congress to provide adequate funding for the 2020 election in a sharply worded public statement released on Thursday.
"Mr. President, Members of Congress, should you fail to provide the funds America needs for its elections, you will be derelict in your duty to your country," Weintraub wrote. A lack of federal funding "would be a devastating failure to protect our democracy in a moment of historic need."
The nation's top election official emphasized that money was needed soon so states "can keep in-person voting safe and can process all the ballots America's voters will mail in," adding that after a year filled with a pandemic and economic turmoil, "the last thing American needs is to end the year with an electoral crisis."
In May, the House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief bill that included $3.6 billion for states to prepare for the upcoming election, which included funding for election security. The bill also included $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, which will play a critical role in delivering ballots during the election.
For months after the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring up that bill for a vote, negotiate with House leaders, or pass a separate coronavirus relief bill through the Republican-controlled Senate.
When McConnell released a relief package on July 27, the bill contained no money at all to help prepare for the 2020 election.
"Federal funding for safe elections can make sure we avoid a democracy crisis in November," Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, said in May. "Time matters. Officials can't just walk into a Staples in November and pick up the necessary equipment. They face ordering and purchasing deadlines that started this month."
Weintraub's statement was released as the White House and Democratic leaders are negotiating the terms of a coronavirus relief package. Details of any potential deal have not emerged, but Politico reported on Wednesday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking a hard line on the House priorities.
Americans who want to avoid a crisis in November should "make that known — loudly clearly, and immediately — to your elected representatives and call upon them to fund this election," Weintraub said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.