Shanon Hankin, cleans a voter booth after it was used for voting at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center Tuesday,  April 7, 2020 in Madison, Wis.  Voters across the state are ignoring a stay-at-home order in the midst of a pandemic to participate in the state's presidential primary election. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)
How mail-in-voting could change the 2020 election
03:50 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The political battle over vote-by-mail is heading to the airwaves.

An anti-Trump conservative group that advocated for President Donald Trump’s impeachment is releasing new television ads pressing congressional Republicans to support an expansion of mail-in voting in the next coronavirus relief package.

The ads are from Republicans for the Rule of Law, a “never Trump” Republican political nonprofit that’s part of former Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol’s advocacy group Defending Democracy Together. The group says it plans to spend $1 million on two ads airing on national cable television and online, beginning on Sunday during Trump’s Fox News town hall.

The conservative outfit’s focus on mail-in voting shows how politically charged the issue has become as Congress and the White House spend trillions of dollars on emergency relief due to the coronavirus pandemic.

House Democrats pushed for $2 billion to help states expand their vote-by-mail programs during the last stimulus negotiations. The $2.2 trillion relief package included $400 million in funding for states and election, which Democrats say is woefully insufficient. They’re pushing for both an increase in funding and a requirement that states provide vote-by-mail options with the potential for coronavirus outbreaks to continue through the November elections.

Trump and congressional Republicans, however, have toughened their opposition to expanding voting by mail. Trump has falsely claimed that mail-in voting is the source of widespread voter fraud.

“Mail in ballots substantially increases the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!” Trump tweeted last month. And the President’s allies in Congress have said legislation requiring states to provide mail-in voting is a non-starter.

Expansion of mail-in voting is one of a litany of issues falling along partisan lines that will make the next coronavirus relief package a much tougher lift. Democrats are calling for as much as $1 trillion in funding to help state and local spending, while Republican leaders are demanding measures that protect businesses from legal action due to coronavirus.

After the Wisconsin primary last month – in which there was a court battle over pushing back the date before it went forward as scheduled – there is added urgency to the issue, as there have been numerous coronavirus cases tied to the state’s election.

The ads from Republicans for the Rule of Law include Republican voters urging Congress to allow them to vote by mail in November, given the dangers that coronavirus poses to people gathering at polling places.

The vote-by-mail ads from Republicans for the Rule of Law do not mention Trump himself, although Sarah Longwell, a co-founder of Defending Democracy Together, said the issue has “become politicized” as a result of Trump.

“The goal for us is to help elevate Republican voices who want to see expanded voting options in November and want to see that people can vote safely and securely,” Longwell said.