When it comes to Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, some arguments are easier than others. Voter-ID laws, for example, are awful and unnecessary, but on the surface, the right can at least sell the idea in a coherent way by raising the specter of “fraud.” It’s why polls generally show pretty consistent support for voter-ID measures – they needlessly disenfranchise many Americans, but most of the public doesn’t know that.
But other aspects of the “war on voting” are much harder to defend, even on a rhetorical level. Why, for example, would Republican policymakers oppose voting the Sunday before the election? If most people in the community have the day off, and find Sunday voting convenient, why deny voters that opportunity?
As a rule, GOP officials opposed to Sunday voting have a tough time rationalizing the policy – though they keep trying to cut off Sunday voting anyway – but Rick Hasen brings our attention to an interesting report out of Georgia.
Apparently, DeKalb County, home to Atlanta, has extended early voting to include Oct. 26 – a Sunday – with a polling station at a popular local shopping mall. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, it led state Sen. Fran Millar (R) to write an angry response.
“How ironic! Michele [sic] Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb. […]“Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea – what a surprise. I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.“Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state.”
Hmm. Let’s unpack this a bit, because it offers a fascinating perspective.
First, Sunday voting is not “Chicago politics.” It’s a pretty common practice nationwide and it really doesn’t have anything to do with the First Family.
Second, putting a voting precinct in a shopping mall isn’t especially unusual, either. Why is it relevant whether or not black people also shop at that mall? Why does that necessarily make expanded voting opportunities “blatantly partisan”?
Finally, I don’t think this state lawmaker fully appreciates what “the accepted principle of separation of church and state” is. If a private institution (a church) has a bus that takes people to another private institution (a shopping mall), this isn’t a First Amendment violation. That really doesn’t make any sense at all.
Keep this in mind, though, the next time there’s a debate about the merits of Sunday voting.
Update: Fran Millar has apparently elaborated on his thoughts, arguing, “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”