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Press Release

New Report: Election Officials’ Needs and Costs for Protecting 2020 Elections from Covid-19

Profiles of five states show funding gaps the federal government must fill in the next stimulus package.

April 30, 2020
Contact: Rebecca Autrey, Media Contact, rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu, 202-753-5904

A new report released today by elec­tion secur­ity experts provides an in-depth look at the equip­ment, staff­ing, supplies, and other costs of admin­is­ter­ing elec­tions this year that keep voters and elec­tion work­ers safe from the coronavirus while remain­ing open, access­ible, secure, and fair. The authors of Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions: Federal Fund­ing Needs for State and Local Govern­ments During the Pandemic worked closely with elec­tion offi­cials in five states with varied elec­tion systems to develop state-specific profiles of their expenses.

The CARES Act included $400 million in federal fund­ing for state and local govern­ments’ elec­tion needs. The total need of the five states featured in Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions is at least $414 million.

Experts at the Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracy, the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law, the R Street Insti­tute, and the Univer­sity of Pitt­s­burgh Insti­tute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Secur­ity authored Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions. They profiled Geor­gia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“The fund­ing Congress has provided so far is an import­ant start, but it won’t come close to cover­ing the needs of the states we stud­ied to protect their elec­tions during the pandemic, let alone what is needed for the entire coun­try,” said Eliza­beth Howard, coun­sel in the demo­cracy program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law and former deputy commis­sioner for the Virginia Depart­ment of Elec­tions. “Congress must invest now in the infra­struc­ture that will stop Covid-19 from inter­fer­ing with Amer­ic­ans’ abil­ity to cast ballots and have them count.”

The elec­tion offi­cials in the five states profiled in Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions, like many elec­tion offi­cials across the coun­try, are prepar­ing both to expand voting by mail and to estab­lish in-person polling that meets public health stand­ards for prevent­ing the spread of the coronavirus. A sampling of the costs iden­ti­fied by state and local elec­tion offi­cials inter­viewed for the report:

  • Voting by mail:
    • Print­ing and mail­ing absentee ballot applic­a­tions
    • Purchas­ing cent­ral­ized vote-tabu­la­tion machines (high-speed scan­ners)
    • Purchas­ing online absentee ballot applic­a­tion tools
    • Conduct­ing absentee ballot educa­tion and outreach
       
  • In-person voting loca­tions:
    • Supply­ing personal protect­ive equip­ment for poll work­ers, hand sanit­izer, gloves, single-use pens, and clean­ing supplies
    • Provid­ing plexi­glass sneeze guards for poll work­ers
    • Arran­ging for curb­side voting

“No voter should have to choose between their health and exer­cising their consti­tu­tional right to vote,” said Paul Rosen­z­weig, resid­ent senior fellow for national secur­ity and cyber­se­cur­ity at the R Street Insti­tute, and former deputy assist­ant secret­ary for Home­land Secur­ity. “That is why Congress must listen to the states and work in a bipar­tisan fash­ion to quickly provide the resources they need to ensure all Amer­ic­ans can vote safely and securely during this pandemic.”

Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions finds that cover­ing these costs will fall largely to local elec­tion juris­dic­tions, as opposed to state govern­ments. In Missouri and Ohio, local govern­ments will need to cover more than 90 percent of total elec­tion-related costs.

“Congress needs to put polit­ics aside and fund state and local efforts to imple­ment essen­tial elec­tion secur­ity meas­ures,” said David Levine, Elec­tions Integ­rity Fellow at the Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracy. “The secur­ity of our elec­tions depends on the work of 50 states and over 10,000 local juris­dic­tions. Our decent­ral­ized elec­tions are a strength, but they don’t take place in a vacuum. This report lays out the stark contrast between what state and local offi­cials in five states need to run safe and secure elec­tions during the Covid-19 pandemic and what Congress has provided so far. It’s not a pretty picture, but Amer­ic­ans and their repres­ent­at­ives need to see it.”  

“Pennsylvani­a’s elec­tion offi­cials, like so many others across the coun­try, are facing an unpre­ced­en­ted chal­lenge to our demo­cracy during this public health crisis,” said Chris­topher Deluzio, Policy Director, Univer­sity of Pitt­s­burgh Insti­tute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Secur­ity. “More fund­ing is urgently needed to make voting safe and access­ible, and the federal govern­ment, in partic­u­lar, must step up and provide addi­tional finan­cial support to the states.”

To read “Ensur­ing Safe Elec­tions: Federal Fund­ing Needs for State and Local Govern­ments During the Pandemic” click here.

To learn more about the Bren­nan Center’s elec­tion secur­ity work, click here.

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