Updated Jun 11, 2019

Beto O'Rourke releases voting rights reform plan

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke released a voting rights and democracy reform plan on June 5, with the goal of registering more than 50 million voters and ensuring that 35 million more votes are cast in 2024.

Why it matters: Voter turnout is traditionally low in the U.S. Before 2018, turnout rates for midterms since 1974 had languished around 40% to 41%. Turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 60%, per Axios' Alexi McCammond. O'Rourke wants to increase the national voter turnout to 65% with initiatives such as tackling voter restrictions.

What's new: O'Rourke added a "voter registration toolkit" to his voting rights plan on Tuesday. It offers resources for researching local voter registration laws and encourages volunteers to "always remain non-partisan" when talking with potential voters.

Key details of O'Rourke's voting plan:

  • Growing voting ranks among those who are eligible and registered via automatic and same-day voter registration.
  • Strengthening the Voting Rights Act, extending early voting, expanding vote-by-mail and establishing a National Voting Day holiday.
  • Redirecting Justice Department resources towards aggressive protection of voting rights, including cracking down on what O'Rourke calls "draconian voter identification laws" and preventing politically motivated state officials from purging voter rolls.
  • Enacting legislation to establish independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.
  • Banning PAC contributions and ending what O'Rourke calls "the revolving door between government service and federal lobbying so that every American has faith our electoral process represents their interests—not those of corporations, special interests, or foreign powers."

Reality check: Many key portions of O'Rourke's plan would require legislation — and are anathema to most congressional Republicans. To make them happen, Democrats would have to regain a supermajority in the Senate in 2020.

  • O'Rourke's plan also proposes term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices — a step that would require a constitutional amendment, an even higher hurdle to clear.

Go deeper: Beto O'Rourke on the issues, in under 500 words

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