Pelosi: 'We Do Want to Have Vote-by-Mail,' It 'Removes the Obstacles to Participation'

By Susan Jones | April 10, 2020 | 7:02am EDT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) come together during the opening session of the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) come together during the opening session of the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

( - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed vote-by-mail again on Thursday, saying Democrats have a "different value system" than Republicans "about what voting means to a democracy."

She wants to change election law in the next coronavirus relief package, since the Democrats’ attempt to change it in the most recent $2.2 trillion bill failed.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told a news conference of his own on Thursday, "I know she wants to look at changing election law...I'm not focused on that right now. I'm focused on the health of American public, I'm focused on making sure they have the resources they need...I'm focused on the economy as well.”

McCarthy said he's already told Pelosi, "I'm not holding a (relief) bill up because you want to change the election law."

Pelosi told reporters that Democrats "want to remove all obstacles to participation. That's why we've had major disagreements with the Republicans on voter suppression that is rampant and their value system and other obstacles that they have put forth," Pelosi told a telephone news conference.

"We do want to have vote by mail, because we think it is--it again removes the obstacles to participation but it's also healthier at this time. And so, again, some people may prefer to go to the polls. But the lower that number is, the healthier for everyone."

Democrats are seizing on the coronavirus pandemic to push a plan (H.R.1) introduced in January 2019, the first day of business for the current Democrat-controlled House.

"H.R.1 is our breath of fresh air to the whole system, to reduce the role of big dark money in politics, to remove obstacles to participation, to empower small donors to participate to increase the voice of the public rather than the private interest in the electoral process," Pelosi said on Thursday.

"So, we have a major disagreement in terms of our democracy."

Pelosi complained that Republicans removed voting rights provisions that Democrats tried to insert into the most recent $2.2 trillion relief bill, called the CARES Act.

"What they did on the Republican side was they took out some of our positive pieces that we wanted to include. That would be same-day registration, mailing a ballot to every registered voter, initiatives like that, that open the process. Instead they substituted three obstacles to participation."

Looking ahead to the next relief/recovery bill -- Phase 4, as it is known -- Pelosi said Democrats will put "families and workers first." She said the bill must also include "more openness" in the nation's voting system, which is actually decentralized, meaning each state manages its own elections.

"Why should we sit here saying to people stand in line for hours when we don't even want you leaving the house? Some of these primaries that are taking place now or are being put off--why--why--why does it make sense?" Pelosi asked.

The President says that he thinks that if we have vote by mail no Republican will ever get elected. Well, have more confidence in what the Republican Party stands for. It had been a Grand Old Party. It has been hijacked, I know, but nonetheless, I can say with some knowledge as a former chair of the California Democratic Party, the largest party in the country, that we would always do much better on Election Day than we did with the vote by mail.

But Republicans know how to vote by mail. So, he shouldn't belittle the ability of Republicans to make their voices heard for the candidates they support and not be afraid of the voice of the people. But they are. And that's one of the reasons they want to stand in the way of a more open Democratic system in a time of a pandemic. We're risking--where people have concerns about going to the polls. Let's recognize that and do the right thing.

But Rep. McCarthy said Pelosi and her fellow Democrats "are concerned about the wrong thing," if they're making election law a priority in a time of pandemic.

"I believe states are smart and understand how they do their elections," McCarthy said. "Every state is different."

He said he opposes attempts to "federalize" the voting process. "There's also a lot of fraud when you vote by mail," he said, pointing to "ballot harvesting," where activists register homeless people, for example, then mail in the ballots themselves.

"I believe in an election, you have to make sure that it's honest and safe."

"Let's focus on the virus," McCarthy said. "Let's cure the problem of what's in front of us. Let's get our economy back on feet and then we can debate about elections. Do not use this for political gains. That is wrong."

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