Ahead of the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate in Georgia, a state that has been mired in election security concerns and faced allegations of voter suppression, 2020 candidate Andrew Yang revealed his plan to reform US elections and increase participation.

Yang’s plan is four-pronged:

  • Combat voter suppression by restoring key parts of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, ban voter ID laws, pass same-day and automatic voter registration, and expand mail-in ballots and early voting

  • Increase access to the ballot box and address the needs of populations with unique barriers by passing the Native American Voting Rights Act and require polling places to be within 20 miles of a tribal community. Also automatically restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals and make Election Day a federal holiday

  • Bolster election security by increasing federal funding for paper ballots and optical scanners, require post-election audits, and invest in cybersecurity research to achieve e-voting

  • Change attitudes around voting by pushing for ranked-choice voting in federal elections, provide every American with $100 in “Democracy Dollars” each election cycle to donate to their preferred candidates, and create independent redistricting commissions

Yang is not the first, nor the only candidate to introduce a plan to secure future elections and strengthen voting rights. He is, however, one of the few to officially call for lowering the voting age in federal elections to 16.

As Yang put it, “At 16, Americans don’t have hourly limits imposed on their work, and they pay taxes. Their livelihoods are directly impacted by legislation, and they should therefore be allowed to vote for their representatives.”

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The Debate on Voter Suppression

Moderators finally asked candidates about their plans to increase access to the ballot box during the November 20 debate, albeit five minutes before closing statements began.

It’s important to stress that the fifth debate took place in Georgia because, as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) put it, “right here in this great state of Georgia, it was the voter suppression, particularly of African-American communities, that prevented us from having a Governor Stacey Abrams right now.”

Here’s some of what other candidates had to say as they made their pitch:

“Term limits. If you want bold change in the United States, you’re going to have to have new and different people in charge,” said hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) responded: “Well, I just — I’m someone that doesn’t come from money, and I appreciate the work of Mr. Steyer. But right now, we have a system that’s not fair … And so, [what] I would do is start a constitutional amendment and pass it to overturn Citizens United. That’s what we should do, so that we stop this dark money and outside money from coming into our politics.”

Steyer has already far outspent his Democratic competitors in advertising, despite being one of the most recent candidates to join the race. Yang came to Steyer’s defense, but still argued for the need for campaign finance reform.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also chimed in: “It is not just voter suppression… but we also have a system through Citizens United which allows billionaires to buy elections.”

#ICYMI: View the full debate, held by The Washington Post and MSNBC, here.

What We’re Watching

Hey Facebook — your turn, says Twitter and Google. After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had announced the platform will end political advertising starting this week, Google joined the club and announced that it will end its practice of “microtargeting.”

And, it appears that Facebook was listening. According to the Wall Street Journal: “Facebook Inc. is discussing increasing the minimum number of people who can be targeted in political ads on its platform from 100 to a few thousand.” (read more)

Microtargeting allows an advertiser to specifically target demographics by way of people’s favorite sports teams, whether they are single, or even their spending habits. With US political campaigns increasingly relying on online advertisements to raise money and the current partisan gridlock in Washington, campaign finance experts have urged these tech giants to play a bigger role in regulating political ads on their platforms.

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