WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) unveiled comprehensive legislation to expand access to the ballot, as the COVID-19 pandemic imposes new barriers to Americans’ right to vote. The DemocracyCorps Act would create a federal organization — modeled off the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps — of 35,000 individuals who would be deployed to all 50 states to help administer elections by registering voters, developing and implementing voter education campaigns, and serving as poll workers.
Members of DemocracyCorps would serve two-year terms and would be assigned to states based on the state’s total population, its number of elected positions, and its population of people on Native American lands.
“The right to vote is sacred and we should make exercising that fundamental right as easy as possible,” Booker said. “Unfortunately, the global pandemic has placed that right in peril, and unless decisive measures are taken to provide safe voting options, many Americans may face a terrible choice this fall between protecting their health and participating in our democracy. My bill would help solve this problem. DemocracyCorps aims to cultivate and inspire a new generation of young people to strengthen our democracy by helping Americans safely exercise the franchise, just as the Freedom Summer volunteers before them.”
“In our democracy, those in power should not try to curtail the right to vote,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said. “A pandemic doesn’t change that—it heightens the need for full access to the ballot. We applaud Senator Booker for introducing his DemocracyCorps Act. His common sense legislation will help ensure that more voters will be heard and more ballots will be counted. If our highest civic duty is to vote, then there should be federal support to encourage it.”
In addition to DemocracyCorps, the bill would also make other enduring changes to our voting laws to make it easier for people to vote in federal elections, including: expanding early voting to 20 days preceding a federal election; allowing voters to register to vote online; and making vote-by-mail an option along with in-person voting, as opposed to the only option, to better serve people with visibility challenges and those who live in places where mail is unreliable. Such measures have been proposed in previous legislation by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Full text of the bill is available here.
Throughout his time in the Senate, Booker has worked hard to protect the fundamental right to vote and expand access to the ballot, especially for marginalized populations. In addition to cosponsoring the VoteSafe Act, the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, the For the People Act, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Democracy for all Amendment, he was the lead sponsor of the Anti-Voter Suppression Act, which sought to repeal President Trump’s offensive and misguided voter suppression committee before it was formally dissolved in 2018.