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Klobuchar introduces bill for emergency mail-in ballots in event of disaster

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, introduced legislation Thursday, May 9, that would help Americans affected or displaced due to natural disasters maintain their ability to vote through a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

According to a news release, the Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act is intended to ensure a printable online ballot would be available to eligible voters affected by a natural disaster.

"Americans who have lost so much following natural disasters shouldn't also lose their ability to vote, nor should the honorable public servants who answer the call to help during times of devastation," Klobuchar stated in a news release. "We can't prevent natural disasters, but we can ensure that when one strikes, those affected will still get the opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box."

The Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act would create a domestic version of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot that is currently available for Americans abroad under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act by amending the Help America Vote Act. An emergency ballot would be available to eligible voters residing in areas where an emergency has been declared, to those who have been displaced, and to professional or volunteer service emergency responders. In addition, anyone who expects to be hospitalized on Election Day, or isn't able to receive a requested absentee ballot from their state or jurisdiction would also be eligible to receive an emergency ballot. The ballot would follow the same process of submission as absentee ballots in each person's state/jurisdiction.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Angus King, I-Maine; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.