Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds

Senate Republicans left out funding for mail-in and early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic in their stimulus bill rolled out Monday, prompting backlash from Democrats, election officials and advocacy groups.

With less than 100 days to go before Election Day, these officials are concerned that without a new injection of federal funds, state and local officials facing budget shortfalls may struggle to carry out safe and secure elections that ensure every American can vote.

The concerns come as the pandemic has upended the primary process, leading most states to postpone their contests, while results in a handful, including New York, have been delayed by a surge in mailed-in ballots.

“This isn’t in anyone’s budget, no one budgeted for a pandemic, and you can see state and local budgets are cratering, they don’t have funding to put into this, and certainly it’s going to be a challenge,” Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Chairman Benjamin Hovland, who was nominated by President Trump, told The Hill Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a press conference that he was concerned that including the funds would “federalize” elections, adding that Congress had previously appropriated election funds to states in other funding bills.

Congress appropriated $400 million to states as part of the CARES Act stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March. These funds were in addition to over $800 million sent to states to boost election security as part of appropriations packages since 2018.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, told The Hill Tuesday that he was “open” to additional election funds being sent to states in the future, but also wanted to examine ways “to increase flexibility for states to use the current funding they have available.”