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Trump, Dems Clash on Mail-In Voting    04/05 08:49

   While Wisconsin struggles to hold its primary on Tuesday, President Donald 
Trump and Democrats are bickering over how to provide voters with safe and 
secure access to a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic rages in the U.S. and 
threatens to extend into the fall, affecting the general election. 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- While Wisconsin struggles to hold its primary on Tuesday, 
President Donald Trump and Democrats are bickering over how to provide voters 
with safe and secure access to a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic rages in 
the U.S. and threatens to extend into the fall, affecting the general election. 

   With another economic rescue package in the works, House Speaker Nancy 
Pelosi says she wants money to give more voters the chance to cast their ballot 
by mail, an option that would allow people to vote without the concern over the 
safety of polling places. 

   But Trump opposes voting by mail and is leading Republicans in a battle to 
limit its use, arguing that it would encourage fraud and lead to so many people 
voting that his party could not win. 

   But the 2020 presidential election is creeping ever closer, and there are no 
signs yet of the pandemic abating, nor any word on when Americans on orders to 
stay home can resume normal life, so lawmakers are trying to figure out how to 
allow for voting in a world where face-to-face contact causes anxiety at the 
least and possibly sickness and death. 

   The debate is playing out now in Wisconsin. It stands apart from other 
states that have delayed primaries because of the virus, though Democratic Gov. 
Tony Evers has issued a statewide stay-at-home order. 

   Evers initially joined Republican leaders in seeking to hold the primary as 
planned on Tuesday, but he now favors an all-mail election with absentee voting 
well into May. Republicans maintain that in-person voting should go on as 
planned and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block extended absentee voting.

   The election features the Democratic presidential primary between Joe Biden 
and Bernie Sanders, but a bigger concern for Republicans is a state Supreme 
Court race that pits a conservative incumbent against a liberal challenger.

   In recent weeks, as Democrats nationwide have argued the country must 
prepare for voting largely by mail, Republicans have objected to or blocked 
expansions of such voting in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

   "It shouldn't be mail-in voting. It should be you go to a booth and you 
proudly display yourself," Trump told reporters Friday evening. Earlier this 
week on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," he claimed the Democrats had a plan 
"that if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this 
country again."

   More than 290,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the 
virus so far, prompting more than a dozen states to delay their presidential 
primaries. Health officials are warning that the virus has the potential to 
return with a second wave during the next flu season, putting voters and poll 
workers in a dilemma where fulfilling a civic duty means putting their health 
at greater risk.

   Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington already provide registered voters 
with a ballot in the mail for all their elections, according to a Congressional 
Research Service report. California and Utah are among the states that give 
counties the option of mail-in voting. 

   Proponents say it can improve participation, particularly with voters who 
have to work on election day, go to school or have mobility issues, such as the 
elderly or the sick. It could reduce the number of poll workers needed, as well 
as the long lines that often arise during a presidential election.

   "It just makes us more democratic," Pelosi told reporters this week. "It 
just gives more people the opportunity to vote. So that is something we would 
like to see."

   Trump contends fraud would increase with more mail-in voting, declaring, "I 
think a lot of people cheat." 

   A North Carolina congressional election had to be rerun last year because 
the Republican candidate's campaign had engaged in widespread fraud through 
mail ballots.

   But some Republicans have come to embrace the format, arguing it can be done 
securely and is cheaper and fairer than in-person elections. Utah, a GOP 
stronghold, is a recent convert to mail-in voting.

   Evidence shows it is Republicans, rather than Democrats, who are most likely 
to vote by mail, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who 
tracks balloting. 

   State and local governments are responsible for determining whether or how 
to offer mail-in voting. A few bills introduced during the current session of 
Congress would require states to allow for early or mail-in voting for federal 
elections. Others would require states to allow mail-in voting during national 
emergencies and authorize the funds to help defray the costs. 

   The $2.2 trillion rescue package that Congress passed included $400 million 
for states to invest in the next election so they could expand early voting, 
move to mail-in voting, or increase safety measures at polling sites. 

   That's a meager investment compared with the $2 billion that the Brennan 
Center for Justice recently said is needed to ensure the pandemic does not 
jeopardize a free and fair election. 


(KR)

 
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