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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Coalitions Forming to Fight War on Voting

The title of the WaPo article by Krissah Thompson and Aaron Blake we flag here will not come as a shocker to TDS readers, or to anyone who is paying attention to what is happening to their voting rights: “Republicans rewriting state election laws in ways that could hurt Democrats.”
We’ve covered this story from a lot of angles, not because we like being messengers of bad news. But it is important for Democrats to keep up with the multi-pronged assault on their voting rights, if we’re going to take it on. Blake and Thompson review the situation to date, and then report on some challenges being mobilized:

They have curbed early voting, rolled back voting rights for ex-felons and passed stricter voter ID laws. Taken together, the measures could have a significant and negative effect on President Obama’s reelection efforts if they keep young people and minorities away from the polls.
……This year, more than 30 states debated changes to their voting laws. A dozen passed more restrictive rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, although Democratic governors in four states vetoed them. Florida and Ohio will cut nearly in half the number of days for early voting, and Florida lawmakers reversed rules that had made it easier for former felons to vote.
…Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, a group focused on registering young voters, said she is most worried about new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups in Florida. Volunteers for groups like hers must now fill out paperwork with the state, then obtain a set of numbered voter-registration forms and return those forms to the registrar’s office within 48 hours. If the paperwork is not in order, the volunteer and the group face fines
…Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering the latest, and perhaps most potent, legislation, a measure that would divvy up electoral votes by congressional district rather than use the winner-takes-all approach. The change would almost ensure a net gain of 20 to 24 GOP electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election.

How bad is it in historical context?

“It all hits at the groups that had higher turnout and higher registration in 2008,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights lawyer who co-directs the Advancement Project, which has been tracking the new regulations.
…Twenty-five percent of African American voters do not have a valid government-issued photo ID, compared with 8 percent of whites, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. The report also found that 15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 per year do not have such an ID.
…The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, urged civil rights lawyers at the Justice Department this summer to reverse some of the new restrictions. “All that we worked for in the last 50 years is on the chopping block,” Jackson said.
…”It just seems like a partisan setup [that is] all about who is going to be in the White House in 2012,” said Browne-Dianis, whose group has issued a report arguing that the vote among young people and minorities is being suppressed. “This really is the worst rollback of voting rights that we’ve seen in a century.”

The good news is that dazed Democrats are starting to wake up and organize some resistance, as the authors report:

Smith said Rock the Vote may file a lawsuit to try to get some of those rules overturned. Her group, which calls the new laws a “war on voting,” will announce a new initiative this fall called “You can’t stop us.”
…In Wisconsin, which passed a law requiring identification to vote, her group has started a “Got ID?” campaign, which buses students to the Department of Motor Vehicles and helps them gather the documents they need to receive an official ID.

It’s going to take energized voter registration coalitions in many states to offset the damage already done to voting rights. And it’s going to take an equally-vigorous education campaign to insure that the public gets it that only the most conservative demographic groups are really safe from the Republican war on voting.

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