Human Rights Campaign Launches Vote Equal, Vote Safe Initiative

by Lucas Acosta

HRC announced a new initiative -- Vote Equal, Vote Safe -- focused on ensuring LGBTQ Voters and their allies are able to exercise their right to vote.

HRC announced a new initiative -- Vote Equal, Vote Safe -- focused on ensuring LGBTQ Voters and their allies — Equality Voters — are able to exercise their right to vote without compromising their own health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In the upcoming months, the Human Rights Campaign will work with leaders across the country to educate voters about how they can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “The Vote Equal, Vote Safe initiative will build on our proven relationships across the country to advocate for the increased funding and new regulations needed to ensure safe and flexible voting options. As our nation continues to battle COVID-19, it is clear this pandemic will affect how millions of Americans will vote this fall. From Wisconsin to Georgia, partisan politicians have put their own political interests ahead of the health and safety of voters. We will not stand for this and will not be silent. Our community has been subjected to voter suppression before and we will not be passive in the face of efforts to disenfranchise us again.”

“No voter in Wisconsin or any other state should ever have to choose between protecting their health and safety and exercising their right to vote. Generation after generation of Americans have fought to secure this right and now we are called on to join this fight to protect and expand voting rights,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin.  “Every American must have an opportunity to vote safely and I take great pride in being a part of this effort. HRC’s Vote Equal, Vote Safe Initiative will help ensure that every American voter, including LGBTQ and Equality Voters across the country, is empowered to have their voice heard in the upcoming elections. Together, we are going to expand the vote and make sure we bring about the change our country so desperately needs.”

“As President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence continue attacks on the LGBTQ community, the stakes couldn't be higher this election for Equality Voters,” said Sen. Kamala Harris. “This is why we must ensure that everyone can safely make their voice heard and have their votes counted as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. This election year, we have the opportunity to send a powerful message at the ballot box: that anti-equality voices won't win. I’m proud to partner with the Human Rights Campaign and look forward to working with them on this new initiative.”

“Every voter should have equal and safe access to the ballot box, and LGBTQ voters are no exception,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “HRC knows that every vote counts in this election, and the Vote Equal, Vote Safe initiative is exactly the right program at the right time. We must work together to ensure each one of us has the tools and resources to cast a ballot safely -- because no one should have to choose between their health and casting a ballot.”

“Arizonans have voted by mail safely and securely for years, and it’s time the rest of the country follow Arizona’s lead,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. “The Human Rights Campaign’s Vote Equal, Vote Safe Initiative will help ensure everyday Americans can exercise our Constitutional rights while staying safe during this public health crisis.” 

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Now, more than ever, it’s important that all Americans are able to participate in our elections as easily and safely as possible,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline, the author of the Automatic Voter Registration Act. “I’m delighted to join HRC in this important effort to ensure that LGBTQ people are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.” 

“During this pandemic, we should be doing everything we can to protect people’s health and their access to the ballot box — expanding vote by mail is critical to ensuring that,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “I’m grateful for the work HRC is doing to make sure that the voices of our community are being heard, while their safety is prioritized. As someone who votes by mail, I encourage everyone to register to vote, to request a mail ballot, and to exercise their right to vote safely from their home.”

Housed within HRC’s Unite for Equality campaign, the Vote Equal, Vote Safe Initiative will focus on three major points: 

  1. Engage LGBTQ Voters and Equality Voters -- voters who prioritize LGBTQ equality at the ballot box -- to ensure they know their voting options and are able to navigate the process.

  2. Advocate at the federal, state and local levels for funding and expanded voting options.

  3. Research to ensure LGBTQ Voters and Equality Voters are comfortable using all available options for safe and flexible voting, including but not limited to: vote by mail, more early voting options and Election Day polling locations.

Prior to the pandemic, poll after poll showed record levels of enthusiasm and anticipation for the 2020 election, and turnout was projected to be historic. It is clear voters want to be heard this November, and HRC will work to ensure they are able to cast their votes without fear for their personal health or the safety of their family, or a lack of understanding about voting options. Three of HRC’s seven priority states have changed election laws since the 2018 election to allow for expanded access to the ballot box: Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Election officials and the courts are instituting additional changes in these states and elsewhere.  Additionally, research shows that some in minority and underrepresented communities are distrustful of vote by mail, which indicates a need for increased information about the process for voters nationwide. HRC will work to both improve understanding and trust in voting by mail and partner with organizations with deep long-standing relationships in minority and underrepresented communities to ensure equal access to voting. 

While some states and cities have recently taken steps to ensure voters have increased opportunity to vote by mail, millions of voters across the country live in areas where severe restrictions still exist. HRC will activate its longstanding relationships with elected leaders at every level of the ballot to help pass legislation or issue orders that meet HRC’s principles for Safe Voting. Those principles are: 

Expanded Voter Registration Options including:

  • Online voter registration
  • Same-day voter registration

Expanded Vote by Mail Options including:

  • Count all ballots postmarked on or before Election Day
  • Allow no excuse Absentee Voting for everyone
  • No witness requirement for Absentee Voting
  • Postage must be free or prepaid by the government
  • Reform signature matching laws to protect voters
  • Allow community organizations to help collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots

Expanded In-Person Voting Options

  • Extend early voting times and dates
  • Increase number of in-person early vote and Election Day polling locations
  • Follow CDC safety guidance at all in-person voting locations

HRC, alongside our partners, will also conduct extensive educational research to identify voters' key concerns with vote by mail especially among youth, LGBTQ voters of color, and communities of color more broadly.