Hillary Clinton was a senior in high school when she watched on a black-and-white television as President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
Fifty years later, the VRA—the country’s most important civil-rights law—has been gutted by the Supreme Court and voting rights are under attack across the country. From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 49 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and 21 states have adopted new laws making it harder to vote, 14 of which will be in effect for the first presidential cycle in 2016.
Clinton sounded the alarm about the widespread push to roll back voting rights during a high-profile speech in Texas today and offered innovative solutions to fix our broken political system.
“What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to the other,” Clinton said. She criticized the GOP contenders for president for “systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of Americans from voting” by peddling a “phantom epidemic of voter fraud.”
She offered three major policy ideas for expanding voting rights:
1. Automatically register voters
Up to a third of Americans are not registered to vote. Clinton proposed fixing that problem by automatically registering every American when they turn 18 unless they opt out. Universal, automatic voter registration—recently adopted by states like Oregon—would add 50 million Americans to the voting rolls. “I think this would have a profound impact on our elections and our democracy,” Clinton said.
2. Expand early voting
Fourteen states have no form of early voting before Election Day, and many others have limited days and hours. Clinton proposed a minimum of 20 days of early voting nationwide, with expanded hours on nights and weekends. “Early, in-person voting will reduce those long lines and give more citizens the chance to participate, especially those who have work or family obligations that make it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day,” she said.