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In Georgia, O’Rourke vows to ‘restore confidence’ in US elections

Beto O'Rourke speaks to a few dozen Georgia Democrats at his town hall event in Atlanta. AJC/Greg Bluestein
Beto O'Rourke speaks to a few dozen Georgia Democrats at his town hall event in Atlanta. AJC/Greg Bluestein

In his first campaign visit to Georgia, White House hopeful Beto O'Rourke highlighted his plan Wednesday to "restore confidence" in elections by registering millions of new voters and impose new restrictions on campaign donations.

The Democratic candidate told a few dozen voters in downtown Atlanta that last year’s gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, which was clouded by concerns of voter suppression, helped inform his voting rights agenda.

“As I watched what happened in Georgia and I saw the lines that stretched hours long, voting machines that didn’t work ... and the implication that some people weren’t intended to vote,” he said, adding it was proof “you need an incredibly strong civil rights division at the Department of Justice.”

The plan unveiled by O'Rourke Wednesday sets a goal to register 50 million more people by 2024 and increase voter turnout to 65% of eligible voters by then. (Turnout was below 61% in the 2016 presidential race.)

The former Texas congressman also wants to make Election Day a federal holiday, allow automatic and same-day voter registration, abolish voter ID requirements and enact legislation that establishes independent redistricting commissions.

And O’Rourke proposes a constitutional amendment that would limit the terms of U.S. Supreme Court justices and members of Congress, along with new restrictions on campaign contributions from individuals and corporations.

“Texas and Georgia – they’re not red states. They’re non-voting states,” he said. “If everyone was registered ... we would be voting. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.”

O’Rourke became a national Democratic star during his unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate, and parlayed his high-profile status to a run for president. With a sprawling field of candidates, he’s struggling to emerge from the pack.

The visit comes ahead of a busy day in Georgia politics. O'Rourke and three other presidential candidates will stump in Atlanta on Thursday at a string of events: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.

The event at Old Lady Gang in Atlanta was a NowThis town hall held with the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group that was once helmed by Abrams.

Among the attendees was Sarah Riggs Amico, the runner-up in last year’s race for lieutenant governor and a possible Senate candidate.

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