Cory Booker unveils plan for new, expanded Voting Rights Act

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Sen. Cory Booker is calling for a new and expanded Voting Rights Act, which would not only restore provisions of the original act, but also tackle gerrymandering and make Election Day a national holiday, among other changes.

Booker’s campaign rolled out the proposal Wednesday during a campaign visit to Georgia, where Democrats have accused Republicans of working to suppress votes in the 2018 gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams refused to officially concede and has called it a “stolen election.”

One of the aims of Booker’s proposal would be to “prevent the kind of voting suppression and voter roll purging we saw in Georgia last year,” a release from his campaign said.

But the proposal goes beyond that, with a holistic approach to voter access. Booker would also aim to end partisan gerrymandering; implement universal voter registration and safeguards against foreign interference; and allow convicted felons to vote. Under Booker’s proposal, Election Day would be designated as a national holiday.

“For years, the right to vote for millions of Americans — disproportionately in communities of color — has been under assault,” Booker said in a statement. “It is time for a new Voting Rights Act to finally put an end to systematic attempts to limit access to the ballot box and strip citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated protections at the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, saying states should not need federal approval to change their elections laws. “Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion.

Booker’s voting rights proposal comes as his campaign is shifting to a phase of deeper policy focus, hoping to capture some momentum in the Democratic primary. Earlier this week, Booker rolled out a proposal to dramatically expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The proposal fits in with Booker’s campaign theme of “justice for all,” which he is currently highlighting during a two-week national tour, but has been at the center of his presidential bid from the beginning.

In February, Booker visited Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers assaulted civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge — sparking a national outcry that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act.