The Republican push to make it more difficult to vote this year — seen by many as a racially tinged attempt to keep Democratic turnout down — could not have failed more spectacularly, a top African American activist told a left-leaning think tank Tuesday.
Chanelle Hardy, a vice president at the National Urban League, told an audience at the Center For American Progress in Washington that, as conservatives had suspected, there was a drop-off in enthusiasm among the African American electorate between 2008 and 2012. Republicans based a lot of their strategy on enthusiasm dips like these, assuming that Obama wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of minority turnout he had enjoyed in 2008.
Unfortunately for those Republican strategists’ plans, however, other Republicans in legislatures across the country were on a quest to impose restrictions on voting, chasing the ghost of in-person voter fraud. Those Republican legislators flipped a switch with the African American vote, Hardy said, rekindling whatever enthusiasm had waned after 2008’s historic Obama win.
This was really true in Ohio, in my experience, and not just among African Americans. I saw real anger among liberals and Democrats here and this is a predominately white, rural county.
I went to the Senate field hearing on voting rights that Durbin and Sherrod Brown held early in the 2012 cycle and I was really struck by how deeply offended people were. I “got it” sitting there among preachers and community leaders and others in a way that I haven’t before and I’ve been following voting rights for more than a few years. There was a sense of determination and seriousness and profound offense that I could feel. Driving home from the hearing I was thinking about how small and petty the conservative side of this battle seems when compared with the liberal side.
On that note, we can look at three proposals for new voting rules, one from a conservative leader/entertainer in the Washington Times and two others from elected Democrats.:
Let’s also stop the insanity by suspending the right to vote of any American who is on welfare. Once they get off welfare and are self-sustaining, they get their right to vote restored. No American on welfare should have the right to vote for tax increases on those Americans who are working and paying taxes to support them. That’s insane.
In addition to suspending a welfare recipient’s right to vote, we also need to get our voting system straightened out and eliminate voter fraud. We need to ensure that only Americans vote by requiring polling places to validate the identification of each voter.
This celebrity is parroting the new focus on the Right, which is centered around the idea that undocumented immigrants are voting. It’s really senseless to try to placate them with voter ID laws because they simply up the ante once the ID laws are in place. They’ve gone from demanding voter ID in Ohio (2006) to demanding photo ID (2012) once the 2006 voter ID demand was met.
Yesterday, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) unveiled a bill they’re calling the “Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act.” Under their proposal, states that “aggressively” pursue election reforms would be rewarded with federal grants.
And what kind of reforms are proponents looking for? It’s not a short list, but the Warner/Coons bill calls for flexible registration opportunities, including same-day registration; expanding early voting; “no-excuse” absentee voting; and “formal training of election officials, including state and county administrators and volunteers.”
In the House, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) unveiled a related proposal, the “Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act,” which is even more ambitious. Most notably, it would require 15 days of early voting in all states for federal elections — and because Congress has authority over regulating federal elections, the assumption is states would simply apply identical standards for all down-ballot races.