Where Thursday's Democratic debaters stand on issues of democracy reform
Voters who consider democracy's dysfunction among the nation's most pressing challenges are hoping the Democratic candidates say more on the subject Thursday night than they have in the first two rounds of presidential debates.
Only the 10 leading candidates have been invited to spend three hours, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, on the same stage at Texas Southern University in Houston – their encounter broadcast and co-hosted by ABC and Univision.
The table below signals where those candidates stand on 17 of the most prominent proposals for improving the way democracy works – in areas of campaign finance, access to the ballot box, voting rights, election security, political ethics and revamping our governing systems.
For a more detailed explanation of the positions of the White House aspirants, see this comprehensive story from July.
There's no counting on the moderators to ask about any of these ideas, but if they do this chart offers a quick guide on what to look for.
Our earlier package covers not only the top-tier candidates debating Thursday but also most of the rest of the remaining field. Three whose positions we detailed this summer have since dropped out: former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The positions of one recent entrant in the race, billionaire Tom Steyer, will be on the chart in time for his debate debut next month.
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A top issue on the democracy reform agenda — protecting elections against both disinformation and cyber hacking — is getting some unusual attention this week in the Democratic presidential campaign.
Amy Klobuchar, arguably at the top of the second tier of candidates given her rising support in Iowa, went to Atlanta on Monday to highlight her efforts in the Senate to enhance election security and to unveil some additional proposals.
The choice of location made sense for two reasons. She and nine other Democrats will meet in the city Wednesday night for their latest in a series of debates where the governing system's problems have so far received short shrift. And Georgia has emerged as the most prominent state where bolstering voting rights and election integrity have become a top priority of the Democratic establishment.
The latest effort to ease restrictions on voting through litigation is a challenge to Mississippi's requirement that naturalized citizens show proof of their citizenship when they register.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, says the law is unconstitutional because it violates of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by treating one category of citizens differently from another. People born in the United States need only check a box on the state's registration form attesting they are citizens.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which helped bring the suit, says Mississippi is the only state with a unique mandate for would-be voters who were not born American citizens.