After having been resistant to the idea in the past, the coronavirus pandemic has house intel chair Adam Schiff warming up to the idea of remote voting.
TheHill reports the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Friday that a shift to remote voting amid the coronavirus crisis would pose no risk to national security.
“I am confident that the logistical and security questions could be addressed if the House decided to move ahead with remote voting for a period of time,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an email.
Schiff emphasized that he’s been averse to the idea of allowing members to vote from outside the Capitol, a proposal being pushed by a growing number of lawmakers amid rising fears of public travel and congregating in large crowds. But he left open the possibility that House leaders might have to take that extraordinary step given the unique threat posed by the pandemic.
“While I have been resistant to the idea of voting at a distance, we are all forced to consider new ways of doing our work that seemed unthinkable even a week ago,” said Schiff, a leading figure in the House’s examination of Russian election interference in 2016.
“Given the urgency of responding to the needs of the nation and the inherent risks of moving 435 legislators back and forth across the country to meet in a confined space, we must adapt as the exigency requires,” he added.
The push for remote voting has gained new urgency this week after a pair of House lawmakers — Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — tested positive for the virus. A number of members have self-quarantined, citing contact with lawmakers, staffers or members of the public who have contracted the virus. Schiff is among those taking special precautions, following news that a former Intelligence aide was among those infected.
Despite the concerns, the appetite for remote voting remains limited on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot down that proposal this week. House GOP leaders have also been opposed, citing the absence of an established mechanism and concerns over security. Some of them have pointed to Iowa’s recent primary debacle as a cautionary tale.
And even some Democrats have been wary of adopting such a system, noting Russia’s interference of the 2016 elections and Moscow’s ongoing effort to influence the process again this year.
Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), after initially being cold to the idea, announced Thursday that Democratic leaders are now weighing all options. She’s asked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, to solicit lawmaker suggestions and prepare “a report on House Rules regarding voting for members’ review.”