Sen. Chris Coons said allowing Republican-led states to eliminate election measures such as ballot drop boxes would suppress the vote of the medically vulnerable as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
“We’ve seen abundant evidence that there are laws being passed that roll back things like ballot drop boxes, drive-through voting, 24-hour early voting, restricting access to the ballot box, particularly for those who in an ongoing pandemic are medically vulnerable, those who are essential workers — we made significant progress in making it easier for folks to vote in the pandemic in 2020,” the Delaware Democrat said Sunday during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Why would we be rolling that back in a dozen states when the pandemic isn’t over? And why would be — why would we be erecting new barriers for people to be able to vote?”
Mr. Coons referred to laws passed in 19 red states that clean voting rolls and add requirements to be eligible to cast ballots by mail, which he said is a form of voter suppression.
Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, criticized Mr. Coons’ assertion when she appeared on the program later.
“I am an expert when it comes to Iowa elections. I did serve as a commissioner of elections. And I can tell you, even Iowa has been targeted by the left because they have changed their voter laws,” she said. “But I will also say that even with those changes in our law, our voting election systems are much more liberal than President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, as well as Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s home state of New York.”
President Biden cast doubt about the legitimacy of this year’s midterm elections last week during a press conference.
“It all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election,” Mr. Biden said.
The president made his comments after it was apparent that Democrats could not pass their voting legislation in the Senate because of a Republican filibuster, joined by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The bill includes requiring a uniform standard of voting by mail in each state, lessening the voter ID requirements in certain states so voters can sign affidavits during federal elections, and allowing for “ballot harvesting” in states where it is currently illegal.
However, Mr. Coons, who represents Mr. Biden’s home state, defended Mr. Biden, saying the president is “passionate” about fighting voter suppression.
“What you’re hearing there is President Biden’s passionate commitment to making sure that we are pushing back on voter suppression and that we secure access to the ballot for as many Americans as is possible,” Mr. Coons said. “That’s something I’m also passionately committed to, and we need to make it clear to the American people what’s at stake here and why we’re fighting so hard to secure the right to vote.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday also tried to clean up Mr. Biden’s comments about the midterms.
“He absolutely is not predicting that the 2022 elections would be illegitimate,” Ms. Psaki said, adding the clarification that elections would be illegitimate only if states act as President Trump demanded after the 2020 vote.
“The point he was making was that the former president asked a number of states — seven or more, in fact — to overturn the outcome of an election. Now, obviously, if there is an effort to do that, we’ve got to fight against that. That’s what our commitment is to doing,” she said on Fox News. “He was not making a prediction. He has confidence in the American people.”
• Kerry Picket can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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