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Remote voting with biometrics for U.S. Congress considered after members test positive



Even before three members of Congress in Washington were confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus, a group of 50 members from both parties had asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to adjust working procedures and allow remote voting, writes The Washington Post.

The group, which has alternatively been reported as coming from 67 Democrats wrote a letter begging for remote voting and asking the Capitol “hold itself to the same high standard that it is asking of the nation: to put public health and safety first.”

The House Rules Committee, however, has declared that the change cannot be implemented in time, Bloomberg reports, due to security and other concerns.

“One method of authentication could be biometric, such as fingerprint scanners, eye scanners, or facial recognition. However, this technology would take time to put into place,” the Committee report notes.

With many elected officials aged 60 and over falling in the high-risk category, Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., has proposed biometric fingerprints or facial recognition technology be introduced to enable a secure remote voting process without jeopardizing lawmakers’ health.

Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., came up with an initiative last week that would permit remote voting for renewable 30-day periods. Portman has previously endorsed remote voting in Congress, and says the technology now exists “to do it in a secure way, an encrypted way.”

Two House lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. The husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has also tested positive.

At the moment, Washington has not set up a remote-voting infrastructure and Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are not currently considering it. Instead, members will practice “social distancing.”

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., the chairman of the Rules Committee, claims his examination into the feasibility of remote voting has been endorsed by Pelosi .

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