Booker introduces bill to create 'DemocracyCorps' for elections

BY JORDAIN CARNEY - 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will introduce a bill on Thursday to create a new federal organization to help with elections.

The legislation would establish a "DemocracyCorps" of individuals who would help register voters, carry out voter education campaigns and serve as poll workers, according to details of the bill shared exclusively with The Hill ahead of its release.

“The right to vote is sacred and we should make exercising that fundamental right as easy as possible. 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," Booker said in a statement.

"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," he added.

The organization would include 35,000 people who would serve two-year terms. They would be assigned to states based on population, number of elected officials and population on Native American lands.

The spread of the coronavirus, and the lack of a vaccine, have raised new questions about how to safely carry out elections, where voters routinely stand in line at polls in order to cast their ballot.

Wisconsin went forward with its primary elections last month, after a court order blocked an attempt by the governor to delay it. The state's Department of Health said earlier this month that at least 67 Wisconsin residents who voted in person or worked at the polls got COVID-19 after voting in person or working at the polls April 7, though some individuals had other potential exposures, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

In addition to creating the new organization, Booker's bill, the DemocracyCorps Act, would also include broader election reforms. It wraps in ideas included in separate pieces of legislation from Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

That includes expanding early voting to 20 days before a federal election, allowing for online voter registration and allowing for vote-by-mail in addition to voting in person.

Allowing for mail-in voting has emerged as a point of tension between President Trump and Democrats. Republicans say mail-in voting could be vulnerable to fraud, though experts say overall cases of voter fraud are rare.

Trump on Wednesday doubled down on his threat to withhold funding from states over plans to allow more voting to be conducted by mail, claiming that mail-in ballots are riddled with “tremendous fraud."

Trump, who voted by mail in Florida's recent primary election, initially claimed on Wednesday that Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson (D), was sending out absentee ballots, and not ballot applications, to the state's registered voters and alleged that the step was done “illegally."

Benson responded to Trump's tweet, correcting him by saying that the state "sent applications, not ballots" and pointing out that Republican secretaries of state have done the same.

Trump sent out a second tweet hours later correctly saying that Michigan is sending "absentee ballot applications" ahead of the primary and general election and maintaining that the decision was done "illegally" and "without authorization."

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