The Guardianâ€™s Sam Levine reports:
Senate Republicans did not allocate any money in the latest Covid-19 relief bill to support election officials as they prepare to run an unprecedented election this fall.
States need at least $4bn to upgrade their systems, according to an estimate to the Brennan Center for Justice. Congress has allocated just $400m, so far.
There have been widespread and bipartisan calls for federal assistance to local election officials, who are grappling with how they can accommodate expected high turnout in the presidential election.
More Americans are expected to vote by mail this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and election officials in states that typically do not see widespread absentee voting are figuring out how they can scale up their systems to process ballot requests as well as ballots themselves.
During the primaries, voters in many states have seen severe delays in getting their ballots as local election offices, in some cases staffed by just a few full-time employees, have been crushed by the surge of requests.
â€œThe Senate proposal is an insult to the lives we have lost to this global pandemic and to those who continue to suffer. It is a morally deficient response that does not support our most marginalized communities and protect our democratic institutions,â€ Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has lobbied for more support for mail-in voting, said in a statement.
Covid-19 is also forcing election officials to find poll workers and places for polling stations as the people who usually serve – and tend to skew older – and locations drop out because of the virus. Tina Barton, an election official in Rochester Hills, Michigan, told the Guardian last week she was â€œbeggingâ€ people to work the polls and had recently spent $2,000 on an advertisement encouraging people to sign up to be poll workers.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has led a push for expansion of vote by mail in recent weeks, also criticized the Republican proposal, describing it as an â€œoutrage.â€