Ahead of a campaign trip to Georgia, Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke released a plan Wednesday morning that he says would dramatically increase voter participation, protect U.S. elections from interference and rebuild confidence in government.
The plan contains many ideas that have long been promoted by Democrats, including making Election Day a federal holiday, allowing automatic and same-day voter registration and cracking down on laws and practices that make it more difficult to vote. O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, has made voting rights a focus of his campaign for president, and the plan provides a written version of many ideas he has already shared on the trail. In the plan, O’Rourke sets the goal of registering 50 million more people of any political party and having 35 million new voters cast ballots in 2024.
The plan is one of several O’Rourke has released over the past few weeks as he tries to introduce himself to voters nationwide and articulate where he stands on issues. Last week, he released an immigration reform plan, and in late April he released his ideas for combating climate change.
O’Rourke’s voting rights plan takes a three-pronged approach:
— “Increase participation in our democracy” by encouraging more states to implement same-day voter registration and automatically register voters when they do business with a government office, along with supporting a constitutional amendment to limit members of Congress to 12 years in office and Supreme Court justices to 18 years in hopes that this turnover would lead to these bodies better reflecting the diversity of the country.
— “Remove barriers within our democracy” by supporting a new voting rights act and encouraging Congress to pass legislation that allows people to vote without showing identification, forbids voter roll purges, makes Election Day a federal holiday, expands early voting and encourages voting by mail, along with having the Department of Justice focus on “robust, aggressive enforcement” of current laws that protect the rights of voters.
— And “rebuild confidence in our democracy” by providing states with federal funding to better protect their election systems, encouraging Congress to pass legislation to curb gerrymandering and not asking about citizenship in taking the U.S. census. O’Rourke also calls for major reforms to campaign finance laws to forbid political action committees from donating to campaigns, require PACs to disclose all donors, make political contributions up to $500 tax deductible and provide a match, require campaigns to disclose donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours, and reduce the amount of money a single donor can give to a state or national committee of a political party.
“Ours is a government for the people and by the people. Yet when it comes to that quintessentially democratic act — people voting — the numbers tell a different story,” the plan reads. “For decades, tens of millions of people have been disenfranchised, by law or practice. Many have not voted — not because they love our democracy any less, but because they have been literally drawn out of it.”
The plan adds: “If we are to reclaim our democracy, we must draw people back into the political process.”
O’Rourke is headed to Georgia this week and will share his plan at a town hall in Atlanta on Wednesday night in partnership with the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a nonpartisan effort to engage more Georgians in the political process and register them to vote. On Thursday, O’Rourke will join other presidential candidates at the IWillVote gala in Atlanta, along with Stacey Abrams, the former state lawmaker who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Georgia last year and has been a leading voice on voting-rights issues.