This election year, one issue that can’t be stressed strongly enough is how Republican state legislatures across the country have quietly engaged in a systematic attempt to disenfranchise voters.
In 2010, Republicans gained control of a number of state governments and promptly began a coordinated campaign of voter suppression through various legislative means: voter identification laws, restrictions on early voting and absentee voting, restrictions on voter registration and registration drives, and disenfranchisement of those with prior convictions.
This transparent suppression initiative, detailed in a thorough report by Brennan Center for Justice, has been cynically justified by Republicans as necessary to prevent “voter fraud.” But it’s been demonstrated time and again that voter fraud, much like “death panels” and unicorns, simply doesn’t exist. Everyone knows the real reason behind Republicans putting up barriers to the right to vote is that such barriers disproportionately affect minorities, the young, the poor, and the disabled, groups who trend Democratic. By one estimate, these restrictions could make it harder for up to 5 million Americans to cast a ballot.
The Obama administration hasn’t been taking these attacks lying down: the Justice Department recently used its power under the Voting Rights Act to block restrictive voter id laws in Texas and South Carolina. And the Obama campaign, with the support of the DNC, labor unions and other groups, has devoted significant efforts to voter registration, voter education, and litigation in states affected by proposed or actual new restrictions. The courts have intervened too — for instance, striking down proposed voter id legislation recently in Missouri and Wisconsin.
Ordinary voters and organizers like you and me have a role to play too in this fight: spreading the word about what the right wing has tried to do to keep eligible voters from voting, and asking why the Republicans are so afraid of a fair fight that they have to try to rig the game. Who knows, maybe this unapologetic Republican attempt to disenfranchise voters — along with their war on women — will end up being the Republicans’ biggest recruitment and fundraising gift to Democrats yet.