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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Strategy for Better Voter Turnout

From Kira Lerner’s report on the Voting and Elections Summit 2015, “5 Ways To Fix America’s Dismal Voter Turnout Problem” at ThinkProgress:

According to a U.S. Census report from 2013, 14 percent of nonvoting respondents were unable to participate because of an illness or disability, 8.6 percent were out of town, 12.7 percent did not like the candidates or campaign issues and almost 19 percent were too busy. Some people cannot take time off from work on a Tuesday in November, which has led lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to call for making Election Day a federal holiday. Others may not feel engaged in politics or informed enough to vote, while 5.85 million U.S. citizens are prohibited from voting due to a felony conviction on their records.

Lerner observes, optimistically, that “Unlike laws that restrict access through voter ID laws, shorter registration and early voting periods and disenfranchising felons, these proposals are likely to have support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and would not be difficult to implement to get voters to turn out in higher numbers.” But significant bipartisan support for any such reforms might not be so easy.
Still, Lerner notes,

…More states have been pushing to allow people to register online, a proposal that has bipartisan support. As of December, 20 states had implemented online voter registration and four others had passed legislation to implement the technology. A number of Republican election chiefs have supported the technology, including Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) who told ThinkProgress that his state has developed a website which allows voters to register in minutes and helps avoid errors that occur when poll workers attempt to read voters’ handwriting. Ohio’s Jon Husted, notorious for attempting to suppress votes, has also recently called for online registration.

Among the creative reforms Lerner cites is a Virginia initiative, “Revive My Vote, “a digital workspace” connecting volunteers with convicted felons in to help thread the procedures to restore their voting rights.
It seems reasonable to hope that here and there a few Republicans in state legislatures and perhaps even some Republican members of congress will come forward to support expanding the franchise through various measures. But most of these reforms are unlikely to get much traction until we get a wave election favoring Democrats. What state and local Democratic party chapters can do on their own is make a more substantial commitment to recruiting, training and developing better candidates from blue collar America, as well as the “rising American electorate,” including women, people of color and younger Democrats.

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