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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Early Voting Lines a Good Issue for Dems

Despite all the blah-blah about supply and demand, it can’t be a complete coincidence that gas prices are tumbling exactly as early voting begins in states across the nation. The connection between gas prices and political approval ratings is exceptionally strong and well-documented. In addition to price gouging, voters in several states experienced shortages and long lines at gas stations during the last month. Atlanta residents had several days with no gas, and Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue got heat from more than a few angry voters.
Few experiences piss people off so much as having to wait in line for something that ought to be available on demand. The same principle applies to the long lines at the early voting polls — up to four hours at one Miami-Dade precinct, and two hour waits being reported in many localities across the country. More people are enduring longer lines at the polls than they experienced at gas stations.
As Democrats we still want to encourage early voting, even when it means waiting a couple of hours. It is still our best check against voter suppression and GOP obstructions. But we need not take the blame for the unnecessary long lines that are not of our making.
In the closing days of campaign ’08, this is a good issue for Democrats. Almost all of the delays at the polls can be attributed to Republican obstruction and mismanagement. One of the most consistent policies of Republicans at the federal, state and local level is to make it hard for people to vote, or at least people who are not likely to vote for GOP candidates.
It’s probably too late for the DNC to do a good ad about GOP obstruction of voting, although it would be worth doing, because now is the time it would resonate most powerfully and the issue fades as a priority as time passes. But Democratic candidates should make sure the message gets out via speeches and media interviews that voters have to wait hours to cast ballots because the Republicans opposed adequate funding for voting machines and they routinely obstruct reforms like weekend voting, internet balloting and more polling sites. This is true in state and local legislatures across the country, as well as in the U.S. Congress, with very few exceptions.
There has been a lot of good reporting on GOP vote suppression. (For starters, see this excellent report by Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.). But Democratic candidates, the national and state Democratic parties should do more to prioritize the issue at the optimum time than just grumble and gripe. It’s not one of the major issues of campaign ’08. But it is a good issue this week, particularly for the few remaining undecideds. A lot of voters are ticked off about it right now. It’s up to Democrats to make sure their anger is accurately directed.

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