Open Letter — March 25, 2020 —
COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our daily lives, but one thing has stayed the same — our American spirit to persevere even during the toughest of times.
As Secretaries of State we are natural risk managers, with 40 of us serving as our state’s Chief Election Official. In this capacity, we routinely plan for countless scenarios, from cybersecurity incidents, tornadoes and even cars crashing into polling places (yes, this does actually happen).
Elections in the United States are decentralized, meaning they are carried out at the state and local level. When drafting the Constitution, our Founding Fathers understood states were in the best position to determine the methods of voting to fit the needs of their citizens. For instance, people in Iowa don’t vote the same way as they do in New Mexico; and New Mexicans don’t vote like Texans or Vermonters.
We have been closely monitoring COVID-19 public health alerts, working with our state public health departments and assessing our state emergency preparedness plans accordingly. We will continue to do so in upcoming elections and for the general election in November.
So how will we successfully prepare? There is no one size fits all approach, but instead a 50-state solution. In particular, states may increase their vote by mail presence, extend absentee mail ballot request deadlines, increase drive-up curbside voting, and/or expand absentee voting eligibility.
If you would like to learn more about current measures states are taking around this issue, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has compiled a brief addressing these evolving actions. Many nonpartisan organizations like NASS and our colleagues at the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) are working to keep state election officials connected and sharing information regularly.
Additionally, as Congress debates COVID-19 responses, there have been discussions about providing resources to election officials. We ask Congress to recognize the necessity for flexible funding to meet each of our specific needs. We would also encourage them to aid the U.S. Postal Service, as they are absolutely necessary for sending and receiving mail ballots from absentee, military and overseas voters.
Rest assured, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve in the United States and globally, Secretaries of State are continuously monitoring developments to determine the potential impact on upcoming elections and are taking steps to help ensure the safety of voters. You can help us by getting your information from state and local election officials to ensure you are receiving timely, accurate election updates.
Stay safe, healthy and be sure to vote when the time comes.
Paul Pate is the Secretary of State for Iowa and the President of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Maggie Toulouse Oliver is the Secretary of State for New Mexico and the President-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
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