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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Escalates War on Early Voting

Whatever else you read today, don’t miss the New York Times editorial “They Want to Make Voting Harder?” which provides an excellent update on the GOP’s voter suppression campaign, which certainly appears to be targeting African American voters. It’s hard to select an excerpt, since every sentence of the editorial is substantive, but here goes:

…Early voting, which enables people to skip long lines and vote at more convenient times, has been increasingly popular over the last 15 years. It skyrocketed to a third of the vote in 2008, rising particularly in the South and among black voters supporting Barack Obama.
And that, of course, is why Republican lawmakers in the South are trying desperately to cut it back. Two states in the region have already reduced early-voting periods, and lawmakers in others are considering doing so. It is the latest element of a well-coordinated effort by Republican state legislators across the country to disenfranchise voters who tend to support Democrats, particularly minorities and young people.
Mr. Obama won North Carolina, for example, by less than 15,000 votes. That state has had early voting since 2000, and in 2008, more ballots were cast before Election Day than on it. Mr. Obama won those early votes by a comfortable margin. So it is no coincidence that the North Carolina House passed a measure — along party lines — that would cut the early voting period by a week, reducing it to a week and a half before the election. The Senate is preparing a similar bill, which we hope Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, will veto if it reaches her.

Racially-motivated? Sure looks like it:

…More than half of the state’s black votes were cast before Election Day, compared with 40 percent of the white votes. A similar trend was evident elsewhere in the South, according to studies by the Early Voting Information Center, a nonpartisan academic center at Reed College in Oregon. Blacks voting early in the South jumped from about 13 percent in 2004 to 33 percent in 2008, according to the studies, significantly outpacing the percentage of whites.
One of the biggest jumps was in Georgia, where, over the objections of several black lawmakers, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill in April that would cut back in-person early voting to 21 days, from 45 days. Florida just cut its early voting period to eight days, from 14. Florida also eliminated the Sunday before Election Day as an early-voting day; election experts note that will eliminate the practice of many African-Americans of voting directly after going to church.

It’s not only the south, however. The editorial notes that a similar effort is underway in Ohio. No doubt other of the 33 states that allow early voting and have GOP-controlled legislatures will follow suit. Shameless.
For Dems, the challenge is clear — develop programs to mobilize the constituency for early voting to turn out in the shorter time frames.

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