Countering the Right-Wing Assault on Voting Rights


[ Photo: President Johnson Signing the Voting Rights Act by White House Photos via Flickr ]

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 DNClabor 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.


  1. Jess says:


    Superb! After the civil war, there were three things people needed to do in order to vote: pay a poll tax, take a test (which was like taking a US history exam) and fullfill residency requirements.
    There’s so much work to be done with voting and these 527 groups. It makes democracy less great with people rigging the system. Just want to say great article Lenny.

  2. Bob Lamm says:

    As someone old enough to remember the battles against the poll tax, to pass the Voting Rights Act, and the rest, it is sickening beyond words to see what the Republicans are doing to disenfranchise voters. One more bitter aspect of what it means when Republicans, conservatives, and Tea Party activists say they want to bring back “America the way it used to be.”

    Terrific piece, Lenny.

  3. Carolyn says:

    With every passing day, it seems less likely that Republicans could take back the White House legitimately, which makes me suspect they will be trying every trick in the book by Election Day. Thank you for reminding us, Lenny, that the right to vote is hard won and we must protect it.

  4. Andrew Solomon says:

    Thanks, Lenny. Nicely done.

  5. Alan says:

    A bit late on this, but much appreciated. Right wing folks really don’t want a more genuine democracy in this country, but only what will help them gain or stay in power.

  6. Judy says:

    Are you a practicing attorney? Would you like to help me draft a pledge for honest candidates? Please contact me…

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