Field workers for President Obama’s campaign fanned out across the country over the weekend in an effort to confront a barrage of new voter identification laws that strategists say threaten the campaign’s hopes for registering new voters ahead of the November election.
In Wisconsin, where a new state law requires those registering voters to be deputized in whichever of the state’s 1,800 municipalities they are assigned to, the campaign sent a team of trainers armed with instructions for complying with the new regulations. In Florida, the campaign’s voter registration aides traveled across the state to train volunteers on a new requirement that voter registration signatures be handed in to state officials within 48 hours after they are collected. And in Ohio, Mr. Obama’s staff members have begun reaching out to let voters know about new laws that discourage precinct workers from telling voters where to go if they show up at the wrong precinct.
The voters who are dealing with this for the first time (Wisconsin!) are more vulnerable than voters in Ohio, because conservatives have been periodically changing the voting rules in Ohio since 2006. We’re on round three in Ohio, so we’re used to them setting up ever-higher and constantly changing barriers for the voters they disfavor to jump over. Right now they’re going after early voting in Ohio because God forbid we should extend the window where people might actually get in and cast a ballot. A single Tuesday in November is apparently a magical day of increased “integrity” and “ballot security” to conservatives, no matter that election officials have MORE time to check the validity of a submitted ballot with early voting, not LESS time. But, none of this voter fraud bullshit ever makes sense on the most basic, practical level, and all of it is accepted without question. We’re more than happy to accuse Democratic VOTERS of all kinds of illegal acts without a shred of proof, but even calmly walking through the outlandish claims of Republican lawmakers and leaders and lawyers step by step to determine if they make sense is off limits and partisan.
In 2004, in Ohio, where I live anyway, John Kerry’s campaign used outside groups to register and inform voters, and it was a mess. Voter registration rules are state law, and one really needs people who are familiar with the rules and the state. Too, the Kerry campaign were contacting voters anyway. It never made a whole lot of sense to me why we were conducting two separate campaigns.
On that note, there is widespread confusion about voter registration and voting because conservatives and media have conflated the two things for nearly a decade, and they are two separate processes. That’s why we hear the nonsense about Mickey Mouse voting.
Here’s the truth, and it’s logical and it makes sense. Like state birth records process, another ordinary, mundane records process that has been turned into a super-complicated plot out of a spy novel, voter registration is governed by a series of rules and they’re all written down in state codes. Voter registration is not unknowable and mysterious and arbitrary.
When one person accepts a voter registration card for another person, the individual who is “registering” that voter (turning the card in) may not make a final call on the validity of that registration. ALL registrations must be turned in. The state or county official makes the call on the validity of the registration. You can easily understand why this is so: if the person collecting voter registrations were permitted to cull registrations willy-nilly, just using their own best judgment, and rejected those registrations THEY deemed invalid, there would be all kinds of potential for dirty dealing. Easy, right? Makes sense? Yet every single year, regular as rain, we hear breathless reporting on how Mickey Mouse is voting, because a registration was turned in for Mickey Mouse at 123 Main Street. Registering to vote and voting and are two separate things, and the first must be completed before the second may even possibly occur. There’s really no rational reason to jump to accusing all disfavored voters of voter fraud, because that’s a baseless and unfair accusation.