KEY POINTS

  • The panel questioned the four states' ability to field an adequate number of poll workers and to set up an adequate number of polling sites
  • The panel faulted Texas for its refusal to expand mail-in voting
  • Georgia was cited for its decision not to send absentee ballot applications to all voters for the general election despite having done so for the primary

A House panel Wednesday questioned the ability of Florida, Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin to hold safe elections amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing an inadequate number of polling places and lack of judges coupled with restrictions on mail-in voting.

The report by Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis was issued ahead of a hearing at which panel Chairman James Clyburn, D-S.C., urged adoption of federal legislation to shore up postal service finances and ranking member Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., repeated the president’s allegation that widespread mail-in voting would lead to fraud.

The select subcommittee conducted an investigation of primaries in the three southern states and Wisconsin, concluding they need to take immediate action to “ensure all voters can cast their ballots without delays or risks to their health” come Nov. 3.

The panel noted Texas has refused to expand mail-in voting, one of only six states insisting on in-person voting for most people even though the state had fewer than half the poll workers needed to conduct the primary and was unlikely to field an adequate number in November.

Georgia reversed its policy concerning absentee ballot applications, deciding against sending them to all voters for the November election, raising fears of confusion among voters and possible disenfranchisement. Additionally, it has identified just 5,000 of the 20,000 poll workers needed to conduct the general election, the panel said.

Florida has decided against expanding early voting and helping counties to recruit poll workers despite long lines for the primaries, and Wisconsin also is facing a potential poll worker shortage.

“The select subcommittee investigation raises concerns about election preparedness in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin, including whether these states are prepared to provide adequate voting by mail, extended early voting, and safe polling places as recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” the report said.

“Texas’s refusal to expand absentee voting and the urgent warnings from counties about shortages of poll workers and polling locations suggest the state’s voters could face significant delays and long lines on Election Day. Other states also face shortages of poll workers that, if not addressed, will mean voters could be waiting in hours-long lines to cast their ballot.”

Scalise said expansion of mail-in voting is not the answer, calling it a “recipe for disaster” if votes still are being counted “weeks later.”

Democrats have been pushing states to expand mail-in voting. Twenty-two states expanded the option  this year in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with five of them – California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont – sending ballots out automatically to most voters and the other 17 sending out applications for absentee ballots. Only six states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana and South Carolina – require an excuse beyond coronavirus to vote absentee. Five other states -- Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – have conducted all-mail elections for years.

COVID-19 has killed 190,000 Americans, Johns Hopkins tracking data showed Wednesday.