Nicole Clendenin of Bowie, Maryland, places four ballots in a drop box outside the Kentland Community Center in Landover on June 2, the day of the state's primary election. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Nicole Clendenin of Bowie, Maryland, places four ballots in a drop box outside the Kentland Community Center in Landover on June 2, the day of the state's primary election. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Americans should “never again be asked to choose between performing one of the most hallowed obligations and privileges of citizenship — voting for our representatives at the local, state and federal levels — and our health,” a mass group of health experts says.

In a letter to Congress, 1,000 public health experts have urged lawmakers to provide states with $4 billion so that they can expand access to vote by mail and ensure safe in-person voting in November.

“In order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and protect the public health at the same time, it is incumbent on our leaders to prepare for a presidential election by mail, in which ballots are sent to all registered voters, to allow them to vote from home and ensure their health and safety in the event of a new outbreak of SARS-CoV-2,” the letter said.

The experts hail from institutions such as Yale School of Public Health, Adelphi University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Allegheny Health Network and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Additionally, experts from the American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, Harvard Medical School, Georgetown University and James Madison University also signed the letter.

President Donald Trump and many Republicans have voiced opposition to voting by mail despite the raging coronavirus pandemic. Democrats have uniformly supported voting by mail, opining that the GOP is attempting to suppress the vote by taking measures against ballots cast through the U.S. Postal Service.

“Congress and states need to act quickly in order to be ready for November,” the letter said. “As the number of positive COVID-19 cases trends sharply upward in many states this summer, social distancing is critical to keep the virus in check.”

To make the changes to expand vote by mail and early in-person voting, the public health experts note that congressional action is needed to cover the costs of expanding these options, including ballot printing, postage, drop boxes for absentee ballots, and appropriate security.

Additional funds are also needed for secure electronic absentee ballot request technology, ballot tracking, and improvements to absentee ballot processing, including additional facilities and staffing.

“The right to vote should not have to be sacrificed or compromised to ensure our health and safety,” the letter said. “If you act now, we can all vote without fear of acquiring or spreading COVID-19 as we exercise this fundamental democratic right in November 2020.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has helped lead the push for Congress to invest more to expand vote by mail and early in-person voting, said the funds are critical to ensure the November election is safe and secure.

“In the midst of this pandemic, voters should not need to choose between their health and casting their ballots,” Klobuchar said, according to the Center for American Progress. “Expanding access to voting by mail and early voting is not a partisan issue. As Congress prepares to provide states with medical and economic relief, we should also act swiftly to provide states with additional resources and pass my legislation to ensure that every American has a safe way to participate in our democracy during a national emergency.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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