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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Where it’s Harder and Easier to Vote for Democrats

Nathaniel Rakich reports “16 States Made It Harder To Vote This Year. But 26 Made It Easier” at FiveThirtyEight, and writes:

Two years ago, the biggest battles in state legislatures were over voting rights. Democrats loudly — and sometimes literally — protested as Republicans passed new voting restrictions in states like Georgia, Florida and Texas. This year, attention has shifted to other hot-button issues, but the fight over the franchise has continued. Republicans have enacted dozens of laws this year that will make it harder for some people to vote in future elections.

But this year, voting-rights advocates got some significant wins too: States — controlled by Democrats and Republicans — have enacted more than twice as many laws expanding voting rights as restricting them, although the most comprehensive voter-protection laws passed in blue states. In all, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have changed their election laws in some way this year….

Some political commentators have argued that making it harder to vote matters less than the integrity of vote counting. Although Republicans are louder complainers about vote theft, Democrats may have more reason for concern. Indeed, since both Trump and Putin are heavily-invested in Trump winning the presidency in 2024, it’s hard to imagine their minions not doing whatever they can to corrupt the count.

But no political commentators have provided a persuasive analysis that Democrats should simply ignore voter suppression, although there are legitimate questions about the amount of resources to commit to fighting against it. Rakich continues,

….According to data from the Voting Rights Lab, a pro-voting-rights organization that tracks election-law legislation, state legislators introduced 566 bills restricting voter access or election administration that year, 53 of which were enacted. This year hasn’t been quite so busy, but as of July 21, 366 laws with voting restrictions had been proposed and 29 had been enacted.

All but one of those 29 new laws1 came in states where Republicans have full control of the lawmaking process: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana,2 Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Five of the laws include provisions that tighten voter-ID requirements, 11 include provisions that interfere with election administration and 13 have at least one provision that targets mail voting.

For Democrats the most worrisome state has to be Georgia in terms of presidential electoral votes, since Trump won all of the others in 2020. But Democrats could lose even more Senate and House of Reps seats in the other states through voter suppression and partisan redistricting.

But there is good news for Democrats in terms of recent electoral reforms, as Rakich notes:

….As of July 21, according to the Voting Rights Lab, 834 bills had been introduced so far this year expanding voting rights, and 64 had been enacted. What’s more, these laws are passing in states of all hues. Democratic-controlled jurisdictions (Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington) enacted 33 of these new laws containing voting-rights expansions, but Republican-controlled states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming) were responsible for 23 of them. The remaining eight became law in states where the two parties share power (Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia).

Events permitting, Democrats should be able to pick up at least a few House seats in 2024, thanks to these reforms. The Senate is a bit trickier to suss out.  The caveat, according to Rakich: “That said, not all election laws are created equal, and the most comprehensive expansive laws passed in blue states.” In any case, hard-fought battles over redistricting will continue into the foreseeable future.

Clearly, there is every reason for Democrats to strengthen their state parties as an essential precondition to building a working majority in congress.

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