Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) revealed his new plan to protect democracy by expanding voting access and limiting the terms of those in government.
We need to fix our democracy if we want to overcome the greatest set of challenges we've ever faced. Everyone must be able to cast their vote, have their voice heard, and fully participate. This work starts by doing 3 things: pic.twitter.com/SaYanqGivJ
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) June 5, 2019
In his proposal, O’Rourke outlines several major changes to the democratic system in the United States, including the expansion of felon voting rights and the implementation of term limits for all branches of government, including the Supreme Court.
Here are five things to know about O’Rourke’s plan:
1. O’Rourke would create a term limit for Supreme Court justices
One of the biggest changes in O’Rourke’s plan is to implement term limits on Supreme Court justices who currently serve lifelong terms. If this change took place, justices would serve 18-year terms and would be allowed to return to lower courts upon completion of their terms.
O’Rourke’s plan would also apply term limits on members of Congress. Senators would be limited to two terms, and representatives would be limited to six terms, allowing for 12 years of service in each chamber.
His plan would require an amendment to the Constitution, which currently only limits the office of the presidency to two terms or 10 total years in office.
O’Rourke claims this plan would prevent elected officials from focusing solely on re-election instead of policy. He also notes that this policy could inspire more people to run for office without the same incumbent holding the seat for decades.
While term limits in the House and Senate could have bipartisan appeal, many conservatives will likely find fault with term limits in the Supreme Court, as President Donald Trump just appointed two young conservatives to the bench who could easily serve more than 18 years.
For comparison, Justices Clarance Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer have all been on the bench for 25 years or more.
2. He would expand felon voting rights
O’Rourke’s plan notes that the former congressman would work to end felon disenfranchisement. His plan directly references those Americans who were charged with felonies but have since served their sentences.
“Too many people, including new Americans and those that have lost their right to vote but have served their sentences, are currently excluded from our political process and ought to be welcomed into our democracy,” he noted.
O’Rourke’s plan is vague enough that it isn’t clear where he would draw the line for felon voters. As IJR previously reported, fellow 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would allow the Boston Marathon bomber to vote from his jail cell. It’s not clear whether O’Rourke’s position would be as extreme.
3. O’Rourke would tear apart voter ID laws
O’Rourke called voter ID laws “draconian” and outlined his plan to prevent states from requiring a state-issued identification for voter registration.
The former congressman claimed that voter ID laws reduce turnout and disproportionately impact minority voters because they are “more likely to not have government-issued identification in the first place.”
It isn’t clear where O’Rourke found his claim that voter ID laws suppress turnout, but a study done by Enrico Cantoni of the University of Bologna and Vincent Pons of Harvard Business School found otherwise.
Instead of a state-issued ID to vote, O’Rourke would allow people to vote as long as they presented a “sworn written statement of identity,” meaning they must have someone vouch for the identity of the person voting without an identification.
4. He wants to make Election Day a national holiday
A key part of increasing voter turnout is to make Election Day a national holiday, meaning government employees would have the day off to go vote. Private businesses would be encouraged to follow suit, though it wouldn’t be legally required.
O’Rourke claimed this is necessary because “showing up to vote in-person on a workday can be hard — especially for families with two income-earners, the elderly or disabled, and hourly wage-earners.”
Additionally, O’Rourke would expand early voting, voting by mail, and accessibility at the polling stations, making it unclear why voters would also need Election Day off from work.
5. O’Rourke would ban questions of citizenship from the U.S. census
While Trump has been pushing to include a citizenship question on the U.S. census, many Democrats have been pushing back on the issue. O’Rourke took a hard line in his proposal, claiming that he would bar questions of citizenship from the U.S. census.
Supporters of the citizenship question argue that congressional seats are distributed using census data, so a massive population of noncitizens could impact the voting districts. Opponents argue that the census is just a count of the people and that it would be inaccurate if it didn’t include noncitizens.
O’Rourke called Trump’s citizenship question a “brazen attempt to discourage people from being counted.”
The former congressman’s plan includes several other policy goals, including limits on political donations and a ban on elected officials from holding jobs as lobbyists — a proposal backed by both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
This is about having every voice heard. To achieve that, we'll:
✅Ban PAC contributions
✅Expand the Voting Rights Act
✅Make Election Day a federal holiday
✅Enact same day & automatic registration
✅Prevent members of congress from ever becoming lobbyists
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) June 5, 2019