Former President Jimmy Carter is calling for the country to expand access to mail-in voting options as the country continues to cope with the coronavirus while steaming toward a presidential election in November. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

By Ernie Suggs | Atlanta Journal-Constitution | May 6, 2020

Former President Jimmy Carter is calling for the United States to expand access to mail-in voting options as the country continues to cope with the coronavirus while steaming toward a presidential election in November.

“I urge political leaders across the country to take immediate steps to expand vote-by-mail and other measures that can help protect the core of American democracy – the right of our citizens to vote,” Carter said Wednesday.

Carter, who has monitored elections all over the world, said the COVID-19 pandemic has put in place “critical challenges,” and “serious impediments to holding safe, secure, and inclusive elections in November.”

“Many voters across the U.S. are likely to find themselves in areas where the pandemic has not abated and where the health risks involved in going to polling locations will be unacceptably high,” Carter said.

Voters in Wisconsin voted on April 7, after the state Supreme Court overruled Gov. Tony Evers on delaying the spring election amid fears of spreading the virus.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that at least seven new coronavirus cases appeared related to the election.

President Donald Trump has blocked emergency funding for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which would handle ballots this fall.

Trump said that mail voting allows voters to “cheat,” although he voted by mail in the Florida primary in March.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden supports efforts to allow for voting by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has also been aggressive about advocating for more mail-in voting, arguing against claims that it breeds voter fraud.

“Election officials should focus their attention on helping people vote with things like paid postage rather than frightening them,” said ACLU Georgia executive director Andrea Young. “The legacy of voter suppression in Georgia creates enough of a hurdle for people voting by mail for the first time.”

Among the key areas that Carter addressed are:

  • Expanding easy access to absentee ballot request forms online and ensuring that requested ballots are received with enough time to vote and return the ballot.
  • Providing options for returning a ballot, including prepaid postage and use of a USPS postmark.
  • Establishing adequate security provisions for all ballots.
  • Providing additional funding for election administrators.
  • Disseminating clear public messaging about deadlines for ballot requests.
  • Establishing COVID-19-sensitive polling locations on Election Day.