Democracy Reform in the 2020 Presidential Race: Where We Are


The ideas primary is officially underway!
In the two months since our coalition released our 2020 platform for democracy reform, we’ve heard great ideas from the 2020 presidential candidates. Here are just a few:

  • a 21st century Voting Rights Act
  • automatic, online, and same-day voter registration
  • independent redistricting commissions

These proposals build on a strong foundation: H.R. 1 (the For The People Act), the huge reform bill that passed the House back in March and is currently stalled in the Senate.

Read: 5 Things You Didn’t Know Were in H.R. 1 →

We’re seeing both a growing consensus that reform must be at the top of our agenda, and healthy competition to propose the best ideas under that umbrella. Below, find details on the plans campaigns have released so far — and stay tuned for more on these important issues.
Note: Progressive Turnout Project will not be endorsing a candidate during the primary. That doesn’t mean we’re not excited to see such a strong field!

Beto O’Rourke

Rep. O’Rourke told Lawrence Lessig that democracy reform is “fundamental to being able to get any other change that you want to accomplish.”
He’s set the ambitious goal of 35 million more votes cast by 2024, aiming to get there with automatic and same-day registration, a new Voting Rights Act, and “human-centered” design in the elections process. He also calls specifically for outreach to young people, who face additional barriers to voting.

Elizabeth Warren

Two words: easy and secure. That’s Elizabeth Warren’s voting rights plan in a nutshell.
She plans to accomplish that by using Congress’s broad power to regulate and fund federal elections. Warren’s plan also spotlights the gaps in election security that experts, including Robert Mueller, have said need to be closed.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Following her earlier plan to publicly fund elections with Democracy Dollars, Sen. Gillibrand released a full democracy reform plan on July 4. It includes important steps like automatic, same-day, and online voter registration — which you might remember was a key part of the For the People Act.
She also wants transparency laws requiring public officials to disclose things like their meeting logs and tax returns.

Michael Bennet

Using the hashtag #MoneyOutPeopleIn, Sen. Bennet is focusing on the corrosive influence that dark money has on our elections. And, like other candidates, he’s calling for a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United as a step toward ending that influence.
Other highlights of the Bennet plan: stronger ethics laws, expanded early voting, and codifying the emoluments clause in legislation.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan addresses democracy reform as an issue of racial justice. In addition to important measures to implement criminal justice reform, equity in education, and environmental justice, the plan makes expanding ballot access a priority.
On top of restoring preclearance — the keystone of the Voting Rights Act — Buttigieg wants to fight 21st-century voter suppression techniques like voter ID laws and online misinformation. Proposals to admit DC as a state, abolish the Electoral College, and fight gerrymandering would also put more political power in the hands of Black Americans.

Other proposals

The campaigns below haven’t released full democracy reform plans — yet — but they do list important reforms on their websites’ issue pages.

How you can help

If democracy reform is important to you, then tell the candidates! Asking questions and lifting up answers, whether in person or online, is going to keep this agenda in the spotlight.
Part of banging the drum on issues like this is encouraging candidates to make these issues central to their platforms. The other part is cheering them on when they do.

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