Durbin Joins Klobuchar To Call On Senate To Pass Legislation To Protect Elections During COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Rules Committee, today joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on the Senate floor to call on Senate Republicans to act on legislation to protect the right to vote amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  The CARES Act allocated $400 million to help states prepare for the 2020 election cycle through increasing the ability to vote by mail, vote early, register online, open more voting facilities, and hire more poll-workers. Illinois received approximately $13.9 million from that funding.  However, another $3.6 billion is needed in the next federal relief package to help all states increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person.  This funding is included in the Heroes Act, which passed the House of Representatives more than six weeks ago.

“No one should have to risk their life to cast their vote—that’s why it’s so important to have safe opportunities to allow Americans to participate in our democracy and to fulfill their right in November,” Durbin said.  “It is time for us to come together and protect the fundamental right to vote, as well as the health and safety of all eligible Americans who seek to exercise it.”

On the Senate floor, Klobuchar asked for unanimous consent to pass her Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, which would expand early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states and provide states the funding and resources to improve the safety of elections during the coronavirus pandemic.  Durbin is a cosponsor of this legislation.  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) objected to the unanimous consent request.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

In April, Durbin signed onto a letter to congressional leadership requesting an additional $3.6 billion in resources to expand voting access in the next coronavirus relief package.  He is also a cosponsor of the VoteSafe Act, legislation to expand voting options and improve the safety and accessibility of polling places across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed legislation that expands safe voting opportunities for Illinois voters.  Under the new law, approximately five million Illinois voters with active registrations will automatically receive an application for a vote-by-mail ballot for the 2020 election.  Under the new law, Illinoisans may still vote in person through early voting or voting on Election Day.

To protect voters and poll workers, the law also requires all local election authorities to comply with guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health on early voting and Election Day health and safety procedures.  Election authorities in Illinois also may establish curbside voting options.  And Election Day will be designated a state holiday in 2020, to ensure that more safe polling places will be available—including schools closed for the holiday.