Warren unveils expansive and expensive political system overhaul
Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday unveiled her comprehensive plan for securing the election system while making voting easier, the first among the front-running Democratic candidates to detail an agenda for fixing flaws so many voters find in the political process.
The timing of her announcement, her prominence in the presidential field and the wide-ranging ambitions of her ideas -- which she said would cost $20 billion over a decade – make it very likely that addressing the challenges of the broken democracy will become a topic in this week's first Democratic debates.
"Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for people to vote," Warren wrote in outlining her platform on Medium. "Elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead, they're less secure than your Amazon account."
The core of her plan is to create an array of national requirements for all federal elections, which are now run by about 8,000 local and state jurisdictions. Most ambitiously to the cause of election security, Warren would buy new voting machines, computerized but with an auditable paper trail, for the entire country and have them programmed with a standardized ballot.
In addition, Warren has embraced versions of most of the most prominent ideas of the democracy reform movement, many of them also enshrined in the bill (dubbed HR 1) Democrats passed this spring in the House only to face a deep freeze in the Republican Senate, where the majority says too many of the changes could subject the system to fraud.
- Require states to permit same-day voter registration nationwide (21 have done so) and create systems (like those in 17 states) where eligible people are automatically registered whenever they interact with an agency such as a driver's license office
- Allow voters to cast a ballot within 15 days of Election Day, and make that a national holiday
- Set national standards for voting by mail and longer voting hours
- Permit people without identification cards to make a sworn statement about their voter eligibility
- Restore voting rights to all felons after they're out of prison.
- Prohibit purges of voter lists except to account for deaths, changes of address or "loss of eligibility."
- Mandate that states turn over the drawing of election districts to independent commissions, in order to tamp out partisan gerrymandering.
States wouldn't be required to use the same procedures for state and local elections, but those who do would be eligible for federal subsidies. There would also be federal reward money for sates with high turnout in all race, gender and age categories.
Warren would create a Secure Democracy Administration, replacing the Election Assistance Commission created 17 years ago, as a non-political agency to handle cybersecurity safeguards and create procedures for election administration and the handling of ballots. It would also be able to seek court orders against states that fail to follow federal mandates.
She would pay for her plan with revenue from her proposed surtax on families worth more than $50 million.
Warren, who has the best poll numbers of anyone in Wednesday's debate, has seen her fortunes rise with a series of policy proposals as detailed as they are ambitious. But she announced her election system package after several of the rivals who lag in polling.
Two of them will be on the stage with her: Beto O'Rourke, who put out a comprehensive plan this month designed to reinforce his reputation as determined to drain big money's influence from politics, and Amy Klobuchar, who has made protecting the election system from hacking one of her legislative priorities in the Senate.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."