O'Rourke calls for fixing gerrymandering, voting reform in visit to NC

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, one of more than a dozen Democrats running for president, made three stops in North Carolina on Monday, ending his day at a rally on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus.

In a sit-down interview with ABC11 after the event, O'Rourke said his top priority to achieve everything he wants is fixing partisan gerrymandering and voting laws.

"Our democracy has to work. And right now, in states like North Carolina and Texas, our congressional districts are defined by gerrymandering. We don't have enough people that are able to participate in our democracy and their government," O'Rourke said.

He called for a new voting-rights act that included same-day and automatic voter registration and said each state should have a "citizen-led, non-partisan, non-political redistricting commission" to draw their political boundaries.

When asked what he could do for North Carolinians, O'Rourke used recent hurricanes as a way to bring up climate change.

"I'm going to make sure that we acknowledge the two storms that you have seen, Matthew and Florence, two 500-year floods that were separated by two years, and acknowledge that climate change is human-caused and that we have a solution if we are all willing to work together," O'Rourke said.

During his speech, O'Rourke cited the Bureau of Labor statistics saying solar and wind are the fastest-growing jobs in America, and showed support for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's Green New Deal.

In the interview, O'Rourke also confirmed that he supports a $15 nationwide minimum wage. When asked about small or rural businesses who may not be able to afford to keep a full staff and pay them that, O'Rourke talked of his personal experience as a past small-business owner.

"I know what it's like to meet a payroll every week, to make sure that we are delivering for our clients and to make sure that we are making ends meet. And the single best way to do that is to ensure that the talent that is making that business possible is paid according to its value. That you have to focus only on one job and come into work at one place instead of two or three," O'Rourke said.

He said the minimum wage today hasn't kept up with inflation.

"You can work full time and be living below the poverty line on federal assistance which we all are going to be paying for one way or another. So those businesses who refuse to pay their workers a living wage are being subsidized by you and by me and taxpayers across this country."

When it comes to healthcare, O'Rourke said he wanted to "follow your lead here in North Carolina," referring to Gov. Roy Cooper's healthcare policies, expanding Medicaid.

During his speech, an audience member asked why he didn't support single-payer healthcare, and O'Rourke replied that he thinks his signature plan, Medicare for America, was better, but he was "open to listening" to other ideas.

In his speech, O'Rourke also promoted stronger mental-health programs.

"Universal healthcare also has to mean universal access to world-class-quality mental-health care," O'Rourke said.

He called for legalizing marijuana and expunging arrest records for anyone convicted of marijuana-related charges.

At the end of his interview, O'Rourke went back to his key point of bipartisanship.

"I want to be president so that I can serve everyone in this country. Republican, Democrat, rural, and urban, to ensure that we reach our potential, that we live up to our promise, and that we succeed against the biggest challenges that this country and this planet have ever faced," he said.
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