May 21 (UPI) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that $3.6 billion earmarked for vote-by-mail efforts in the latest coronavirus stimulus package is "a small price to pay for our democracy."
She called on the Republican-led Senate to pass the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which includes the funding for elections. She's supportive of a nationwide vote-by-mail effort since COVID-19 will likely still be a concern come November.
"People should not have to choose between voting and preserving their good health and that of their families," she said during her weekly news conference. The money is "a small price to pay for our democracy and the good health of people going to the polls."
Her comments come after President Donald Trump threatened this week to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada over their mail-in voting efforts.
"We don't want them to do mail-in ballots because it's going to lead to total election fraud," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Michigan on Thursday.
"Now, if someone has to mail it in because they're sick or -- by the way because they live in the White House and they have to vote in Florida, and they won't be in Florida -- and there's reasoning for it, that's OK."
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Trump's threats a distraction.
"To have this kind of distraction is just ridiculous to be honest," she told CBS This Morning. "The threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary, and, I think, something that is unacceptable."
Earlier in the week, Trump criticized Michigan for mailing out "absentee ballots" to all 7.7 million voters in the state. But Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said her department, in fact, mailed out applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters.
States have different rules for who is allowed to vote by mail, with a handful already allowing anyone to vote by mail. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington automatically send all voters a mail-in ballot. California also plans to automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters this year, which is not its normal policy.
Twenty-nine other states and the District of Columbia allow anyone to vote by mail without having to give a reason for doing so, though voters must request a ballot. Sixteen states limit who is allowed to vote by mail -- usually those who are disabled or elderly.
A Pew Research Center poll released in April found that 52 percent of Americans are in favor of voting by mail, with more Democrats (87 percent) than Republicans (49) in favor.