Menendez, Booker Cosponsor Bill to Ensure all Americans have Access to Voting During COVID-19 Outbreak

Menendez, Booker Cosponsor Bill to Ensure all Americans have Access to Voting During COVID-19 Outbreak

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today announced they are cosponsoring legislation that would ensure Americans are still able to vote, despite the public health emergency, by expanding early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states, and allowing voters who did not receive an absentee ballot to use a printable ballot currently only provided for military and overseas voters. With the public health emergency plaguing the nation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, this bill will ensure all registered voters have the opportunity to cast their vote and have their voices heard.

Governor Phil Murphy announced yesterday that all elections scheduled for May 12th will be held with vote-by-mail ballots only. This bill would cover the cost incurred by the state for the increased vote-by-mail ballots needed for the May election and future elections.

“As we grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak to our daily lives, we must do everything in our power to ensure every eligible voter has the ability to cast their vote,” said Sen. Menendez. “The measures in this bill will help limit crowd size at polling locations, which will ultimately protect the health of voters and poll workers. We can’t let COVID-19, or any future health emergency or natural disaster, impede on our most fundamental democratic right.”

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy,” said Sen. Booker. “In New Jersey and every other state, Americans should be able to cast their ballots safely—period.  Even during a public health emergency like the one we’re facing now, or a natural disaster that disrupts our way of life, states should remove barriers that can keep people from casting their votes.  This bill ensures that voters in every state can vote in person early or cast no-excuse absentee votes by mail, and it also requires states to set up voting contingency plans for public health emergencies and natural disasters. These and other commonsense reforms contained in this bill protect our sacred right to vote against emergencies that could otherwise make it harder for Americans to participate in our democracy.”

Natural disasters and public health emergencies are occurring more frequently and with greater impact than ever before, affecting the ability of victims and first responders to vote on Election Day. As New Jerseyans follow the social distancing protocol, the priority must be to reduce the number of people voting in person at any given time. This can be done by allowing for early voting, and for all people to be able to vote from their homes using vote-by-mail.

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) represents a commonsense solution to ensuring the 2020 elections, and future elections, are resilient to emergencies and that we are protecting the voting rights of those in harm’s way as well as emergency responders.

The bill would specifically:

  • Ensure that voters in all states have 20 days of early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail and ensure states begin processing votes cast during early voting or by mail 14 days before Election Day to avoid delays in counting votes on Election Day.
  • Guarantee that all voter registration applications submitted by mail or online before and 21 days prior to election day are deemed valid. Allow any state to have a deadline which is closer to Election Day.
  • Require states and jurisdictions to establish a publicly available contingency plan to enable eligible Americans to vote in the case of an emergency and establish an initiative to improve the safety of voters and poll workers and recruit poll workers from high schools and colleges as well as from other State and local government offices. 
  • Provide all voters with the option of online requests for absentee ballots and require states to accept requests received before or 5 days prior to election day. Allow any state to have a deadline which is closer to Election Day.
  • Guarantee the counting of absentee ballots postmarked or signed before the close of the polls on Election Day and received on or before the 10 days following Election Day.
  • Ensure states provide self-sealing envelopes with prepaid postage for all voters who request a voter registration application, absentee ballot application, or an absentee ballot.
  • Require states to offer their downloadable and printable absentee ballots under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) to domestic voters who requested but did not receive an absentee ballot for the 2020 election and to voters with disabilities who requested an absentee ballot and reside in a state that does not offer secure accessible remote ballot marking.
  • Charge the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) with creating a uniform domestic downloadable and printable absentee ballot that can be used starting in 2022.
  • Direct all states that do not already use ballot tracking systems to use envelopes with an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) to allow voters to track their ballot for the 2020 general election and successive elections until a state implements a domestic ballot update service.
  • Charge the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in consultation with the General Services Administration (GSA), EAC, and the United States Postal Service to create a domestic ballot update service for election officials to provide voters with updates on their ballot for the 2024 election and beyond.
  • Ensure states implement a specified signature curing procedure to allow voters the opportunity to address a signature mismatch.
  • Provide additional accommodations for Native American voters including allowing tribes to designate ballot pickup and drop-off locations and not requiring residential address for election mail.
  • Authorize funds necessary to reimburse states for the cost of implementing the Act, such as providing additional absentee ballots and prepaid postage, and purchasing additional ballot scanners and absentee ballot drop boxes.
  • Authorize funds necessary to reimburse states for the cost of developing or purchasing and implementing secure remote ballot marking to enable voters with disabilities to mark their ballots at home and vote by mail.
  • Provide $3 million in additional funds to the EAC for supporting states in implementing the Act.

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) is supported by Common Cause, Let America Vote, and End Citizens United Action Fund.

The bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Press Contact

Chris_Flores@menendez.senate.gov