RESTORING AND STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY
Our government and our elections are supposed to reflect the interests of the American people, not only the wealthiest few and the biggest corporations. Democrats will fight to restore and protect Americans’ fundamental right to vote, including by aggressively pushing back against Republican governors, legislatures, and state officials who have disenfranchised people of color, young people, low-income people, and people with disabilities. And we will strictly enforce ethics laws and improve transparency across the federal government in order to rebuild trust with the American people, and will protect civil servants and whistleblowers from political retribution.
Protecting and Enforcing Voting Rights
Democrats are committed to the sacred principle of “one person, one vote”—and we will fight to achieve that principle for every citizen, regardless of race, income, disability status, geography, or English language proficiency. We stand united against the determined Republican campaign to disenfranchise voters through onerous voter ID laws, unconstitutional and excessive purges of the voter rolls, and closures of polling places in low-income neighborhoods, on college campuses, and in communities of color. Americans should never have to wait in hours-long lines to exercise their voting rights.
Democrats will strengthen our democracy by guaranteeing that every American’s vote is protected. We will make it a priority to pass legislation that restores and strengthens the Voting Rights Act, and ensure the Department of Justice challenges state laws that make it harder for Americans to vote. We will make voting easier and more accessible for all Americans by supporting automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, early voting, and universal vote-from-home and vote-by-mail options.
Democrats believe Election Day should be a national holiday, in celebration of our democratic institutions and to make it easier for everyone to cast their ballot. Democrats recognize that unions, community groups, faith organizations and other civic organizations are critical to facilitating registration, encouraging voting, and protecting voter rights.
We will fully implement the Help America Vote Act and require that polling places and elections are accessible for people with disabilities, and work to ensure that returning citizens have their voting rights restored upon release from jail or prison without the additional hurdle of having to pay fines and fees in order to vote. Democrats will also fight for emergency funding for states to help make vote-from-home and vote-by-mail universally available during the pandemic, while ensuring that all jurisdictions take steps to ensure continued meaningful, safe opportunities to vote in person. We recognize that the United States Postal Service is more than ever a critical component to our democracy and must be supported to guarantee timely and efficient delivery and return of vote by mail ballots. Election officials must be provided with sufficient time after election day to process, count, and audit all ballots.
We must give voters the confidence that their ballot was counted as cast by supporting mandatory, statistically meaningful post-election audits and full transparency of all election results and data. To ensure every eligible ballot is counted, vote by mail voters must be informed of and provided a meaningful opportunity to fix any problem with their ballot. A professional and well-trained election workforce is critical to the administration of elections, we support ongoing federal and state funding for local elections offices.
Gerrymandering distorts our democracy, and Democrats will enact measures to end partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. Efforts to redraw legislative districts following the 2020 Census must be guided by transparency and public input, while reducing the power of partisan actors, so that maps reflect the will of voters, fairly represent communities of color, and provide for competitive races. We will protect the integrity of the decennial Census from political interference, including ensuring that apportionment and redistricting be based on total population counts, and also ensure the Census Bureau is equipped to conduct cost-effective, timely, and accurate surveys. Democrats will maintain the legal requirement for Census participation and increase resources to reduce undercounts of communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, rural and low-income populations, and young children that have long plagued the decennial Census. We will also direct the Census Bureau to study whether counting the prison population where they are incarcerated creates inequitable outcomes in state or federal representation or funding allocations.
Democrats will increase investments to help state and local governments upgrade election technology, including cybersecurity technology, and ensure that election technology is accessible for people with disabilities. Democrats will also increase oversight of private election vendors to ensure voting systems are secure and worthy of voters’ trust. We will not tolerate election interference and will protect the integrity of our elections from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Reforming the Broken Campaign Finance System
Democrats believe that the interests and the voices of the American people should determine our elections. Money is not speech, and corporations are not people. Democrats will fight to pass a Constitutional amendment that will go beyond merely overturning Citizens United and related decisions like Buckley v. Valeo by eliminating all private financing from federal elections.
In the meantime, Democrats will work with Congress on legislation to strengthen the public funding system by matching small-dollar donations for all federal candidates, crack down on foreign nationals who try to influence elections, and ensure that super PACs are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties. We will bring an end to “dark money” by requiring full disclosure of contributors to any group that advocates for or against candidates, and bar 501(c)(4) organizations from spending money on elections. Democrats will ban corporate PACs from donating to candidates and bar lobbyists from donating, fundraising, or bundling for anyone they lobby.
Building an Effective, Transparent Federal Government
Every federal employee swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. It is a sacred promise to the American people—that federal workers, both civil servants and political appointees, will put the interests of the many ahead of their own personal concerns. President Trump and his Administration have abused the trust between the American people and their government—including by denigrating civil servants, directing federal grants and contracts toward their cronies and political donors, inappropriately interfering with federal investigations and firing independent watchdogs, retaliating against whistleblowers, failing to share information as required with Congress, and, most nefariously, violating the law by withholding congressionally appropriated funds in an attempt to get a foreign government to interfere in America’s elections.
Democrats will establish a commission on federal ethics to aggressively enforce and strengthen federal ethics laws, including rules around personal financial disclosures for Executive Branch officials, and make campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying disclosure filings easier for the public to access and understand. We support requiring all candidates for federal office, including presidential candidates, to publicly disclose at least 10 years of tax returns.
The American people deserve assurances that their elected officials and federal appointees work for them, not for special interests. Democrats will re-establish merit-based federal contracting decisions and prohibit political appointees, at the White House or in agency leadership, from interfering in grantmaking. We will restore and re-empower independent inspectors general across the federal government and work to strengthen whistleblower protections to fully protect federal employees from retaliation. And we will ban lobbying by foreign governments and significantly lower the threshold for having to register as a federal lobbyist in order to close loopholes that allow special interests to secretly influence policymaking in Congress and across the federal government.
Democrats condemn President Trump’s determination to sow chaos and division by inappropriately deploying federal agents to American cities, where too many have used egregious tactics against peaceful protestors. We know federal agents can ably protect federal property while also clearly displaying badges, insignias, and identifying markings; without detaining Americans in undisclosed locations without cause; and without brutally attacking peaceful protestors. Democrats are committed to following the rule of law and will uphold the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
The Republican Party has packed our federal courts with unqualified, partisan judges who consistently rule for corporations, the wealthy, and Republican interests. They have undermined the legitimacy of our courts through an anti-democratic, win-at-all costs campaign that includes blocking a Democratic president from appointing a justice to the Supreme Court and obstructing dozens of diverse lower-court nominees. The Democratic Party recognizes the need for structural court reforms to increase transparency and accountability.
Now more than ever, federal agencies need experts on staff who know how to use science, evidence, data, and facts to guide decision-making on behalf of the American people. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates, our country needs the best experts working within government to protect and improve the lives of all Americans. Democrats support the recruitment of people with expertise in science, social science, technology, and innovation to jobs in public service to help solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. To ensure that federal funds are invested as effectively and efficiently as possible, the federal government should be using the best available evidence when making budget and spending decisions. Democrats will ensure federal data collection and analysis is adequately funded and designed to allow for disaggregation by race, gender, LGBTQ+ status, geography, disability status, and other important variables, so that disparities can be better understood and addressed. Democrats support the widespread use of strategies to promote evidence-based policymaking, including more robust evaluations of tax expenditures and allocating funds for program evaluation, to help ensure the American people are receiving the most productive, efficient services from our federal government.
Making Washington, D.C. the 51st State
It’s time to stop treating the more than 700,000 people who live in our nation’s capital as second-class citizens. The residents of Washington, D.C. pay more per capita in federal income taxes than any state in the country—and more in total federal income tax than 22 states—and yet the District has zero voting representatives in the U.S. Congress. The Congress retains broad power to override budget decisions made by democratically elected officials in Washington, D.C. And as was made shockingly clear to the American people this year, under current law, Washington, D.C. does not have control over its own National Guard units and can be occupied by military forces at the President’s whim. The citizens of Washington, D.C.—a majority of whom are people of color—voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood in a 2016 referendum and have ratified a state constitution. Democrats unequivocally support statehood for Washington, D.C., so the citizens of the District can at last have full and equal representation in Congress and the rights of self-determination.
Guaranteeing Self-Determination for Puerto Rico
The people of Puerto Rico deserve self-determination on the issue of status.
Democrats are committed to helping the island rebuild and recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the recent earthquakes, and will mobilize resources across the federal government to address the island’s disparities in energy, infrastructure, health care, education, housing, agriculture, employment, and disaster preparedness. Disaster response in Puerto Rico must be given the same priority and be conducted on the same basis as federal responses to natural disasters elsewhere in the United States. We will forgive disaster relief loans issued to Puerto Rican municipalities following Hurricanes Irma and Maria to help expedite the island’s economic recovery.
The unequal treatment of Puerto Rico’s residents must end. We will invest in the island’s future through economic development initiatives, increased education funding, construction of affordable housing, and innovative energy and climate resilience programs. Democrats support accelerating access to disaster recovery funds so the island can improve its infrastructure and transform itself into one of the fastest-growing, most prosperous parts of the United States. We also believe Puerto Rico should be treated equally with respect to federal programs, including Medicaid, SNAP, and the Child Tax Credit.
Bankruptcy blocks Puerto Rico’s growth and recovery. Democrats will help restructure and provide relief from Puerto Rico’s remaining debt burden and work with the government of Puerto Rico to accelerate progress in order to dissolve the Financial Oversight and Management Board.
Supporting the U.S. Territories
Democrats recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices made in service of our country by the Americans living in the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The people of the U.S. territories have played a vital role in American democracy for more than 120 years, and have for too long been met with unequal treatment by the federal government. We support establishing a Congressional task force to gather findings on voting rights in the territories, and recommend changes to Congress to allow for the full and equal voting rights of U.S. citizens who are residents of the territories in federal elections, and for full and equal voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The American citizens of the U.S. territories should have the right to vote for President of the United States. Democrats will support self-determination for the people of the U.S territories, including respecting their right to decide their future status in a fair, binding, and equitable manner.
The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered significant impacts as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa have suffered damages as a result of intensifying Pacific typhoons and cyclones. Democrats will support investments to help the U.S. territories recover from recent natural disasters and build increased resilience to the impacts of climate change, including by expanding access to clean, affordable, reliable energy and water systems. We will mobilize resources to address disparities in agriculture, economic development, education, employment, energy, health care, housing, and infrastructure in the U.S. territories to help the territories diversify their economies and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will improve health care access and affordability and support policies to address health disparities in the U.S. territories. We believe the territories should be treated equally with respect to important federal programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, SNAP, and the Child Tax Credit, that reduce poverty and support working families. And Democrats commit to ensuring veterans from the U.S. territories have access to timely and quality health care and other benefits through the VA.
Democrats will continue to work with the people of Guam to properly memorialize residents who suffered unspeakable harm as a result of their U.S. nationality during the Imperial Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II. We recognize the increasing demands placed on state and territorial governments by migration under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA), and will explore mechanisms for increasing reimbursement of costs absorbed by Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Hawaii. And Democrats will restore Medicaid eligibility for migrants under COFA who are legally residing, working, and studying in the United States, but who were inadvertently left out of health care legislation.
Strengthening the U.S. Postal Service
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the world’s most efficient mail carrier, and Democrats are wholly committed to supporting a public USPS. We will fight all efforts to privatize the USPS and will work to ensure the USPS is financially sustainable, including by repealing the mandate that the agency “pre-fund” retiree health costs. Democrats will protect the Postal Service’s universal service obligation as a core American value and maintain six-day and doorstep mail delivery, which is a lifeline for rural Americans. And we will work to restore service to appropriate levels, including overnight delivery of first-class mail and periodicals within the same metropolitan area, maintaining six-day and door-to door delivery, and appointing members to the Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission who champion a strong public Postal Service. We will also support new revenue streams for the USPS, including allowing secure shipping of alcoholic beverages by mail and exploring options to enable unbanked and underbanked Americans to access financial services through the Postal Service.