Today, Everytown Held Virtual Conversation With Fair Fight Action Founder Stacey Abrams to Discuss How Black and Brown Communities Bear Brunt of Both Gun Violence and Coronavirus, and AAPI Communities Experiencing Increases in Hate Incidents — The Same Communities Face Limited Access to Voting and Targeted Voter Suppression Efforts
NEW YORK — Today, following a virtual conversation with Fair Fight Action founder Stacey Abrams, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund (“Everytown”) and its grassroots networks Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action released a set of principles to protect voting rights and expand voter access amid the coronavirus pandemic. The conversation earlier today, part of Everytown and Mom Demand Action’s new “Demanding Women: Quarantine Conversations About Gun Violence” series, focused on how Black and brown communities have borne the brunt of both gun violence and coronavirus, and how AAPI communities have experienced increases in hate incidents.
Everytown knows that the vast majority of Americans support sensible gun laws and that, as we’ve seen recently, elections are a crucial means of expressing that support. Safe and equitable access to the ballot and having that ballot counted are bedrock principles of American democracy and critical to the success of a people-powered movement determined to end gun violence. These principles are at their most vital — and most fragile — in a time of national crisis, so it is of paramount concern to Everytown and its supporters that voters maintain unhampered access to the ballot.
“I am proud of Everytown’s efforts for common-sense gun safety laws and common-sense voting reforms that will ensure access to the ballot and having that ballot counted,” said Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action. “Making our communities safe from gun violence can only happen if we have free and fair elections. The progress we seek is dependent on having our right to vote protected, particularly during this pandemic.”
“No American should have to choose between voting and their health, which is why every American should have the opportunity to vote by mail,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s especially galling that communities of color, which are already on the frontlines of both the gun violence crisis and the pandemic, might be forced to compromise their health in order to cast a vote for leaders who will make addressing both of these public health emergencies a top priority.”
“For decades, the same Black and brown communities disproportionately affected by gun violence have also been targets of voter suppression, effectively ensuring that the people suffering the most from this crisis are underrepresented by lawmakers,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Now, those same communities are experiencing the brunt of coronavirus, too. Every state must allow no-excuse voting by mail now, because voting should be easy and safe, regardless of age, race, zip code, or any other factor.”
Everytown’s principles align with recommendations to protect voting that have been proposed by Fair Fight Action and the Brennan Center. The below recommendations will help safeguard democracy and ensure access during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Vote by Mail
- At a time when we are staying home for the safety of our communities, we need to ensure Americans are able to vote in a safe — and remote — way. Every voter should be able to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot at no cost and without explanation, excuse, or undue burden. Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be counted.
- Early Voting
- Americans have become accustomed to long lines at their polling places. But that’s a dangerous model for elections, especially in the time of COVID-19. The easiest way to make sure our polling places don’t become public health hazards is to open in-person voting locations at least two weeks in advance of Election Day, including weekends and evenings, to minimize crowds and exposure.
- Safe Polling Places
- The Centers for Disease Control have released guidance for how Americans can stay safe during this crisis. Every polling place in America should create a plan for making all voters confident that they can show up and cast a ballot without risking their health.
- Maximizing Voter Registration
- People seeking to register to vote should not be hindered by pre-COVID-19 procedures, which are now impacted by office closures and staffing limitations. States should ensure that their citizens face no unnecessary burdens when registering to vote, including by offering online registration, supporting same-day registration and suspending any purging of voter rolls.
- Voter Protection
- All Americans should be guaranteed an equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote, particularly in times of crises. As COVID-19 continues to affect American households, pre-existing obstacles to participation have been exacerbated. We must ensure safe and equitable access, including for Native Americans, language minority voters, and people with disabilities.
The recommendations follow the Wisconsin primary election, in which only five polling locations were open in Milwaukee on Election Day. According to census data, 41% of Milwaukee residents are Black Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by both gun violence and by the coronavirus pandemic.