AFT Resolution

SECURING FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS AND THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN 2020: AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IS AT STAKE

WHEREAS, free and fair elections are the indispensable foundation of our democratic government, and the source of its very legitimacy. It is only through such elections that we the people” can choose our government and give our consent to be governed. The greater our participation in elections, the stronger and more vibrant our democracy becomes; and

WHEREAS, in recent decades, the democratic character of American elections has been eroded by voter suppression measures, and by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder and its upholding of extreme partisan gerrymandering in Rucho v. Common Cause. Voters in many states now face a gauntlet of voter suppression measures such as mass purges of voter rolls; requiring specific voter identification not readily available to all citizens; making polling sites inaccessible; antiquated and out-of-repair voting machines; discarding votes based on spurious claims of signature non-matches; restrictions on early voting; and disinformation on where and when to vote; and

WHEREAS, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the American electoral process was subjected to interference and disinformation organized by the Russian intelligence services at the direction of President Vladimir Putin to support the candidacy of Donald Trump; and

WHEREAS, the Trump administration has steadfastly refused to take any meaningful measures to protect the 2020 elections, including the security of the process for casting and counting votes, from interference by foreign governments and entities; and

WHEREAS, we are confronted in 2020 with far-reaching threats to free and fair elections that extend beyond previous voter suppression measures and go to the very heart of the role elections play in establishing and maintaining our democratic government; and

WHEREAS, the coronavirus pandemic is at the center of these threats: The primary means we now have for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 is physical distancing, yet traditional Election Day voting practices bring large numbers of voters into close proximity with each other, with poll watchers and with election officials, and include the transfer of ballots, pens and other election paraphernalia among them; and

WHEREAS, for the 2020 elections to be conducted in a free and fair fashion that respects the right to vote and supports the widest participation of registered voters on the one hand, and protects the health and safety of voters, poll watchers and election officials on the other hand, we must adopt alternative practices that allow for physical distancing while voting, such as vote by mail, which is already in use in a number of states; and

WHEREAS, we saw the opposite in Wisconsin where legislators blocked  the governor and held its primary elections in conditions that imperiled the health and safety of voters and poll watchers, and made it particularly difficult to vote in areas of the state that are Democratic Party strongholds, all to advance partisan ends. As a consequence of these actions, there are at least 52 known cases of coronavirus transmissions attributable to participation in the elections; and

WHEREAS, epidemiological experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said that they expect a second surge of COVID-19 cases in fall 2020, when elections are scheduled:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers calls upon federal and state governments to take all necessary steps to ensure that the 2020 elections are free and fair; that the right to vote in these elections is guaranteed for all American citizens registered to vote; that the casting and counting of ballots are secure; and that the elections follow the constitutionally mandated process; and

RESOLVED, that these steps should include: 

  • The full enforcement of Voting Rights Act provisions that guarantee the right of “language minority groups” to ballots and other election related materials written in their own native language;
  • the right of voters to cast their ballots through vote by mail, if they so choose, and the provision of pre-paid postage for that purpose; and
  • to secure the integrity of the individual vote, the use of “hard copy” paper ballots that can be scanned electronically, the disconnecting of all voting machines from the internet and the auditing of paper ballots to ensure the accuracy of the final count; and
  • the ability of voters to use absentee ballots without having to provide an excuse; and
  • the provision of extensive in-person early voting, including during weekends; and
  • the acceptance as valid of all voter registration applications received via U.S. mail or online no later than 21 days prior to the election; and
  • the acceptance as valid and the counting of all ballots postmarked or signed before the close of polls on Election Day; and
  • reform of signature-matching laws to protect voters from efforts at voter suppression disqualifications; and
  • significant increase in the hiring, training and deployment of election personnel to staff early voting and Election Day in-person voting, and to provide for safe voting sites; and
  • requirement that all candidates and campaigns for elected office report offers of assistance, including donations and coordinated action, by foreign governments and individuals; and
  • the development of comprehensive plans by state governments on how they will conduct elections under emergency conditions; and
  • federal government funding of all state expenditures for the implementation of the above provisions to conduct free and fair elections; and

RESOLVED, that to the end of adopting these measures, the AFT supports the following bills currently before Congress:

  • the For the People Act (S.949/H.R.1); lead Senate sponsor Tom Udall (D-N.M.); passed by the House on March 8, 2019 ; and
  • the Securing America's Federal Elections Act (SAFE), (S.2238/H.R.2722); lead Senate sponsor Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); passed by the House on June 27, 2019; the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (S.3529): lead Senate co-sponsors Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and any of the number of bills that secure the 2020 elections; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will do everything we can to have the essence of these plans passed in the next coronavirus relief bills.

(2020)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.