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Sen. Sherrod Brown Sponsors Bill To Expand Voting Options During Pandemic

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, comments on the final statement of House Democratic impeachment manager House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Jan. 24, 2020.
Jacquelyn Martin
Associated Press

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is co-sponsoring a bill to provide federal funding for this November’s election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The VoteSafe Act would provide $5 billion in federal funds, half of which would be used by states to make it easier to offer absentee and early in-person voting.

The other half would be used to expand accessibility to voters with disabilities, rural and Native American voters, and offering things like curbside voting.

Brown says it’s important given the uncertainty around this year's primaries. He says there’s no way to know what Election Day will look like given the presence of the coronavirus.

“Whether people will want to stand in line at the polls on Election Day as we normally do," Brown said. "That’s why we prepare ahead of time for every voter getting an absentee ballot application. And for every voter having the option to vote at the Board of Elections – or several central locations – prior to the election in the month before.”

Ohio’s League of Women Voters is still evaluating this bill. Director Jen Miller says they support providing safety equipment for poll workers.

“I’m really hopeful that we will get funding from the federal level because Ohio desperately needs it, for PPE for poll workers, hand sanitizer, mail sorting equipment, [and] so many various things," Miller says. "We also need the state to act and change some processes to be more accessible, as well, in light of COVID-19.”

Miller says those changes include sending applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

The VoteSafe Act is co-sponsored by California Sen. Kamala Harris, and in the House by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)

President Trump in recent days has escalated criticism against absentee voting, and threatened to pull federal funding for two states with Democratic governors that expanded mail-in voting.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.