Safe and secure elections

The Senate passed a bill this week to improve the safety and security of the 2020 primary and presidential elections. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding from the federal government, totaling more than $16 million, will help local election officials pay for COVID-related election expenses, including personal protective equipment and resources to process the anticipated influx of absentee ballots.

The bill provides flexibility for officials to open and process absentee ballots one week earlier—up to 14 days—prior to election day and allows two days for tabulation after election day. Health care workers are authorized to administer absentee ballots to residents, which will help to keep vulnerable populations away from polling locations. The bill also allows officials to move polling locations if they deem current locations unsafe and may alter polling locations until July 1 of this year. School buildings must only be used as polling locations if no other locations are reasonably available.

The bill provides for electronic filing for affidavits of candidacy, nominating petitions, and requests to count write-in totals. Since the national party conventions have been pushed back, the bill moves the deadline for when political parties must submit the names of candidates to be nominated as presidential electors.

Each of these election reforms will help the Secretary of State and local officials manage the upcoming elections in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure voters’ voices are heard without compromising their health or safety. (HF 3429)