Today, the Human Rights Campaign announced its support of the Heroes Act, legislation in the U.S. Congress investing $3 trillion towards essential needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including $3.6 billion for voting assistance and a sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive non-discrimination provision.
“Our nation is in crisis, and Speaker Pelosi has stepped up to lead,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “This package ensures that our nation has the tools and resources it needs to respond to the epidemic, boost the economy, protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and ensure everyone has the opportunity to safely exercise their constitutional right to vote. Voters should not have to choose between their health and their liberty. Provisions in the Heroes Act not only expand safe voting options but also aim to reduce voter suppression, which disproportionately impacts voters of color and transgender voters. The Human Rights Campaign supports the Heroes Act and is activating our 3.3 million members to urge passage.”
“The health and safety of voters is a top priority during the current public health emergency, and we must make sure the pandemic does not impede full, unfettered access to the ballot box,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, Chair of the Subcommittee on Elections in the House Administration Committee. “Communities with a history of voter suppression, specifically communities of color, must have safe, accessible options and sufficient time to cast their ballots without unnecessary confusion and potential voter disenchantment. Congress has the responsibility to ensure every American can exercise their right to vote. I am proud to support the Heroes Act, and any legislation preventing and removing barriers to the ballot box; barriers that have plagued our democracy for far too long.”
The Heroes Act, in addition to providing funding for COVID response, will give critical resources to state and local governments to ensure voters can safely participate in future elections. These resources will expand early voting, absentee voting and voter registration options as well as make in-person polling places more accessible. These critical efforts are essential to ensuring the safety of every voter during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation:
- Requires federal election contingency plans in response to natural disasters and emergencies.
- Requires at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections.
- Requires the early voting period to be no less than 10 hours each day, to have uniform hours for each day, and to allow for voting prior to 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m.
- Requires polling places with early voting periods to be located within walking distance of a stop on a public transportation route and to be available in rural areas of states.
- Ensures that every voter can access no excuse absentee vote by mail.
- Permits the use of a sworn written statement to meet identification requirements.
- Amends the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to improve voter registration.
- Requires states to establish technological security measures to protect information provided through online voter registration services.
- Ensures that online voter registrations services are available to individuals with disabilities and also available through the use of an automated telephone based system.
- Permits an Indian Tribe to designate buildings as ballot pickup and collection locations and to designate one building per precinct located within Indian lands at no cost to the Indian Tribe.
The bill contains an important non-discrimination provision that would ensure that funds in the bill do not allow for discrimination including against LGBTQ people. In addition, it contains the bipartisan Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act to improve hate crimes data collection.