May 14, 2020

KENNEDY TESTIFIES TO MA STATE HOUSE: WE NEED VOTE-BY-MAIL

“Electoral business-as-usual will not suffice for this crisis”

Newton, MA – Congressman Joe Kennedy III today testified before the Massachusetts State House in support of statewide vote-by-mail and increased early voting for both the primary and general elections. Continuing his leadership to expand access to the ballot box in themidst of COVID-19, Kennedy appeared before the Joint Committee on Election Law and cited the increased health risk for already marginalized and often disenfranchised communities.

“Electoral business-as-usual will not suffice for this crisis. Wisconsin made that clear. If we do not act, less people will go to the polls. Less people will work the polls. Polling locations will close. Those that do show up in person will put their health at risk in long lines and overcrowded sites.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic. No-fault absentee ballots aren’t good enough. 7 days of early voting isn’t good enough. Mailing ballots to some but not all voters is not good enough. To those who tell us we can’t afford this, I say we can’t afford not to.  We need to proactively mail every single voter in this Commonwealth a ballot and open early voting for the entire months of August and October. In Massachusetts, we shouldn’t be afraid of what happens when more people vote.  We should be afraid of what happens when they don’t.”

Kennedy’s prepared remarks can be found below. In recent weeks, Kennedy has called on State House and Congressional leaders to enact vote-by-mail initiatives and for $4B in federal funding to support election integrity in the wake of COVID-19. He has convened multiple virtual press conferences with advocates, experts, government officials, and representatives of marginalized communities.

A strong advocate for voting rights, Kennedy previously submitted testimony to the Massachusetts Legislature in 2017 on the need for automatic voter registration. 

Moments ago, I left a hearing in Washington where a federal whistleblower – our nation’s former head of biomedical research -- warned that, without appropriate planning and implementation:

“The undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID-19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system....2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.”

I don’t repeat that here lightly. I repeat it to drive home both the magnitude of what we are facing and the reality that COVID-19 will be with us for quite some time.

That’s why I am here today to support statewide Vote-By-Mail and to urge you to proactively mail every single registered voter in Massachusetts a ballot for both our primary and general elections.

Electoral business-as-usual will not suffice for this crisis. Wisconsin made that clear.

If we do not act, less people will go to the polls. Less people will work the polls. Polling locations will close. Those that do show up in person will put their health at risk in long lines and overcrowded sites.

And let’s be clear about who the disenfranchised will be.

They will be the people this virus has already devastated.

The 900,000 seniors in our Commonwealth.

The 1 in 10 residents that suffer from diabetes – disproportionately Black and Latinx.

The 1 in 11 residents who suffer from asthma – disproportionately concentrated in communities like Chelsea and Springfield and Lawrence, where years of environmental injustice have made people sick.

It will be the immuno-compromised – those already fighting cancer, HIV, or chronic conditions that have left their bodies vulnerable.

It will be the students – who may not be back in Massachusetts if colleges remain closed.

It will be our essential workers – less likely to be able to take time off to vote.

It will be our communities of color – already fighting off generations of voter suppression.

We are talking about millions of residents.

Who were already more at risk of getting sick.

Already more at risk of losing jobs and homes and paychecks.

And now we’re saying that their right to vote is vulnerable, too?

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. No-fault absentee ballots aren’t good enough. 7 days of early voting isn’t good enough. Mailing ballots to some but not all voters is not good enough.

To those who tell us we can’t afford this, I say we can’t afford not to.

We need to proactively mail every single voter in this Commonwealth a ballot and open early voting for the entire months of August and October.

In Massachusetts, we shouldn’t be afraid of what happens when more people vote.

We should be afraid of what happens when they don’t.

Thank you and I’m happy to take any questions.

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For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2020

Contact:
Dan Black (202) 225-5931