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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Voting Rights Battles in the States Merit More Attention

Noting that interest in fighting voter suppression seems to have dropped off after the November elections, Abby Rapoport’s “Five Voting Fights You’ll Care About Come Election Time” at The American Prospect can help get you up to speed on voting reforms in the states, bad and good.
Rapoport’s five “voting fights” include: voter i.d.; same-day registration; early voting; online registration and ‘partisan wars.’ Most readers of TDS probably have an idea about the first three of Rapoport’s categories, which have been pretty well-covered here and elsewhere. But do read her post to get current. Regarding online registration, however, actual bipartisan cooperation (gasp) seems to have gained a foothold, Rapoport explains:

…Going into the year, 15 states had approved online registration and Virginia and West Virginia have since joined the ranks. (Not all of those states have implemented systems yet.) New Mexico also passed a law allowing voters to update their voter information online, a significant move towards full online registration. Both liberals and conservatives supported these measures.
Republicans like that the policy saves money and cuts down on errors in the voting rolls. Democrats like how the policy increases access for people who move or need to get signed up for the first time. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks state policy, there are currently 12 states still considering measures. In Pennsylvania, where the legislators warred over voter ID, the online registration passed unanimously through the Senate. …

With respect to ‘partisan wars,’ Rapoport is somewhat encouraged by other efforts to bridge gaps in interstate cooperation regarding interstate data sharing and more cooperation between local and state authorities to help insure voter eligibility. She adds that the difference between Republican and Democratic reforms is largely the difference between measures to shrink or expand the electorate, respectively.
Rapoport does not get into felon disenfranchisement, which is one of the GOP’s most powerful means of voter suppression, with an estimated 5+ million, mostly African American citizens rendered ineligible to cast ballots in 2012 (there is a good Sentencing Project fact sheet on state laws here). It’s a problem that deserves more coverage in the blogosphere, as well as the MSM.
At Talking Points Memo, Hunter Walker reports on “Ohio Republicans Push Law To Penalize Colleges For Helping Students Vote,” which is one of the more blatantly partisan ‘reforms’ being pushed by Republicans. According to Walker,

Republicans in the Ohio Legislature are pushing a plan that could cost the state’s public universities millions of dollars if they provide students with documents to help them register to vote. Backers of the bill describe it as intended to resolve discrepancies between residency requirements for tuition and voter registration, while Democrats and other opponents argue it is a blatant attempt at voter suppression in a crucial swing state.
“What the bill would do is penalize public universities for providing their students with the documents they need to vote,” Daniel Tokaji, a professor and election law expert at Ohio State University told TPM. “It’s a transparent effort at vote suppression — about the most blatant and shameful we’ve seen in this state, which is saying quite a lot.”
…”The way that they’ve written this bill makes it clear that its only purpose is to suppress student voting,” he said. “What I’d say to the Republican Party is this is not only a shameful strategy, but it’s a stupid strategy because, you know, the Republican Party already has a signifcant problem with young voters. They’re on the verge of losing a generation of voters. Their path to victory is not to suppress the student vote, but to win the student vote.”

Looking ahead to 2014, midterm political apathy remains a serious problem for Democrats, and a major asset for the Republicans. In addition, Democratic GOTV mobilizers will have to bring their ‘A game’ to thread through the latest round of election law reforms in the states, good and bad.

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