Statement by Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn
The major disruptions to yesterday’s elections caused by COVID-19 hammered home the need to retrench and take steps now to safeguard our democracy. To protect the safety of all voters and the integrity of our elections, Common Cause is now calling for a delay of any in-person voting for at least the next few weeks. The COVID-19 crisis is reshaping many of our day-to-day lives in ways we weren’t expecting, including disrupting elections, but now is the time to act to ensure our primaries and general election are held this year and conducted in a safe, fair, and orderly manner.
Yesterday, Common Cause staff spent all day with our Election Protection partners helping voters deal with unprecedented challenges, causing low in-person turnout and a host of other problems. And in the past week, we’ve been talking with our voting experts, our state leaders, and dozens of Common Cause members about how best to respond. Given that the Center for Disease Control has advised against large events and gatherings nationwide and has called for individuals to practice social distancing, temporarily delaying in-person voting is the responsible decision for election officials to make.
Our call for postponing in-person voting is not a decision we make lightly. Common Cause has a long record of opposing last-minute changes to elections like this, which all too often can disenfranchise voters if done hastily or without proper communication. Common Cause’s mission is all about protecting and expanding the critical right to vote. But the public health and voting integrity challenge we face from COVID-19 makes this a necessary step, at least in the short term.
Moving forward, Common Cause will continue to work with election officials to ensure they are taking the necessary steps so that every voter can cast their ballot safely. This is not about any individual party or candidate. It’s about doing what’s right for all voters. If nothing changes, we risk millions of voters staying home for fear of getting sick or infecting others, and it would cast doubt on the eventual results.
However, for the general election, Common Cause will not accept any delay or any changes that jeopardize the ability of every eligible voter to cast their ballot, particularly in communities that are already being targeted with vote suppression. Early this week, Common Cause released several recommendations that can be implemented before November’s election to ensure a free, fair, safe, and on-time general election even in the face of COVID-19. You can find those at www.commoncause.org/covid19.