Wyden champions vote-by-mail for elections

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Coronavirus pandemic could depress voter participation

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Some lawmakers say the coronavirus pandemic highlights a threat to our election system as the threat of illness could keep voters from the polls. That’s why Democrats, led by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, are pushing for a federal law to require states to provide a vote-by-mail option.

“What I think we need to do,” Wyden said, “is fight for people to vote.”

Coronavirus concerns caused 5 states to delay their primaries so far rather than risk voters’ health.

“There is a safe way to vote and that is to vote by mail,” Wyden said. He wants Congress to pass his vote-by-mail bill now.

Most states already have some form of mail-in or absentee voting, but Wyden wants those options extended to all voters for any reason. It’s especially important, he said, as we head into the November presidential election.

“For those older veterans and millions of others to vote in a safe way this fall,” he said.

Republican lawmakers like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner oppose the bill. “I don’t think Washington DC should be dictating to the 50 states how they should vote,” Gardner said. “That’s one of the ways that we protect our states and our state election systems.”

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who co-sponsored Wyden’s bill, said there’s a different reason for the opposition.

“The Republican Party has really used voter intimdation and barriers to win elections. So they do not like the idea of ballot access,” Merkley said.

For now, the bill has not found enough support to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

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