O'Rourke rolls out sweeping elections, government reform proposal

O'Rourke rolls out sweeping elections, government reform proposal
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke rolled out a sweeping government and elections reform proposal on Tuesday, one that would set term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices and place sharp restrictions on political contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals.

The former Texas congressman will highlight the proposal during a voting rights-focused town hall event in Atlanta Wednesday night.

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The plan, O’Rourke’s third policy rollout since announcing his presidential bid in March, is made up of three parts: "Increase participation in our democracy," "Remove barriers within our democracy" and "Rebuild confidence in our democracy.”

“We’re facing some of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes, and we can’t solve them with half-measures or only half our people — it’s going to take all of us,” O’Rourke said.

“The only way to make progress is if every single American is empowered to vote — and those who have historically been drawn out of our democracy are able to make their voices heard so that this country can live up to its full promise and potential.”

O’Rourke’s campaign said the plan would add 50 million people to U.S. voter rolls and increase voter turnout to 65 percent by 2024. That figure would be about 10 percent higher than in the 2016 presidential election, during which turnout dipped to about 55 percent, a 20-year low.

O’Rourke’s proposal would also prohibit House members and senators from serving more than 12 years in Congress — six two-year terms for representatives or two six-year terms for senators. Supreme Court justices would not be able to serve more than 18 years, though they would still be eligible to serve on federal courts of appeals after their terms end.

The plan takes several aspects of H.R. 1, the sweeping elections and ethics reform bill passed earlier this year by the House. Like that measure, O’Rourke’s plan would make Election Day a national holiday and would mandate automatic voter registration nationwide.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Jon Stewart rips into McConnell for saying he's 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 victim fund Tensions with Iran reach new stage over uranium threat MORE (R-Ky.) has refused to take up the bill in the Senate.

Under O’Rourke’s plan, independent commissions would be tasked with drawing congressional districts, rather than state legislatures, a move that the former Texas congressman’s campaign said would “end gerrymandering” and “ensure the make up of districts reflects the preferences of voters statewide.”

The plan would also curb the influence of political action committees by barring such groups from giving to campaigns and requiring them to disclose their donors, regardless of the contribution amount. O’Rourke himself has pledged to not accept campaign contributions from PACs and often touts his grass-roots fundraising ability.

At the same time, it proposes making campaign contributions of up to $500 tax deductible while matching those donations with public funds in order to encourage small-dollar donations.