The Republican Party may have out-foxed itself on the voting rights and voter suppression issue. Having maneuvered for years to achieve their dream of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, they were thrilled with the?SCOTUS decision in June?that seemed to gut enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. What they probably didn’t anticipate was that the Democratic Party would be spurred to find a solution, and fast — a fact they might have tuned into were they not so allergic to the word ‘solutions.’
Last week, a 50-state initiative was rolled out by a new nonprofit organization run by Michael Sargeant, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The group seized back language co-opted by conservatives, naming themselves?American Values First. The intent of the group is to push voting reforms that will make it a whole lot easier for all those who are eligible to vote.
First of all, Democrats will push states to adopt legislation that requires all elections to be conducted by mail.?Colorado finalized such a law earlier this year. Washington and Oregon already hold all-mail elections. The result in those two states was stunning. Before the change in their laws, both were considered swing states. Since enactment of vote-by-mail legislation, they are solidly blue.
Secondly, Democrats will push for states to enact universal registration, putting the responsibility for registration on state governments — for instance by tying automatic registration of eligible voters to receipt of driver’s licenses. Such a bill failed by just one vote in Oregon last year.?Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) will reintroduce it in January 2014.
It’s a pretty simple bill. Unlike some of the Republican efforts, there’s actually a problem to be solved. This is not something we’re making up.
Ah, solutions — anathema to Republican ears! The idea of automatic, universal registration is an awesome one. As the?Sacramento Bee?recently pointed out, nearly a quarter of eligible voters in this country — 51 million people — aren’t registered. Of course, their ranks are made up largely of?the poor, the young, and racial minorities. Combine automatic registration with receiving ballots by mail and elections become a whole other ballgame — free of any doubts about fraud, but empowering those who’ve had the most difficulty exercising their civic duty. No one can make voters vote, but relieving the stress and hardship involved can bring a much bigger percentage of them into the process.
Obviously, none of this is going to pass in states where Republicans control at least one legislative house, or the governorship — and these measures certainly won’t be adopted by the current Congress. Still, it IS a 50-state initiative, so in states where there isn’t a prayer (so to speak) of winning new laws, Democrats are prepared to highlight Republican Party resistance to a fair fight, plus their opposition to basic rights. Prime targets for this strategy are voter suppression problem areas: North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota — well, let’s just leave it at et cetera.
What concerns me is that the vaunted Democrat-Obama machine brags about tens of millions spent on the ground game trying to turn out votes, yet now doesn’t seem satisfied with that. They seem to want to loosen and make the system as lenient as possible. You still have to protect the integrity of elections.
Turn out all the votes? What could the Democrats be thinking??As Steven Hill of the Sacramento Bee wrote, in support of adopting universal voter registration in California:
Conservatives who are genuinely concerned about reducing voter fraud should support universal registration, since [a recent] Pew Center study found that it would resolve approximately 24 million inaccurate registrations.
The Republican Party couldn’t be more transparent about their real concern — and it isn’t voter fraud. Their attempts at voter suppression add up to a naked power grab. However, the equation is about to change. Democrats are fighting back.
Republicans’ new focus should be on avoiding a total flush of their party down the toilet rather than voter suppression. The 50-state initiative has the potential to capitalize on the same outrage over voter suppression that drove people to the polls in 2012, when an anticipated victory was snatched from snapping, greedy, Republican jaws. Next time, voters just may reduce the party to rubble — with the considerable help of American Values First!
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edited by mb