It’s been about two weeks since presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton presented an ambitious vision on voting rights, calling for a 20-day early voting window and a universal, automatic voter registration. The point wasn’t to create immediate policy changes – Clinton does not currently hold public office – but rather to let the public know about the kind of agenda she’d pursue if elected.
But whether intended or not, Clinton has helped stir the pot a bit when it comes to voting rights. MSNBC’s Zack Roth reported late last week:
In just the week since Clinton spoke, Ohio and Rhode Island have both moved forward with online voter registration bills, and Louisiana passed a bill to study automatic voter registration. If it weren’t for the fact that most state legislatures have already adjourned for the session, the number of states moving forward with expansive legislation would likely be larger.
At the federal level, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) last week unveiled the “Automatic Voter Registration Act,” which would “require local motor vehicle departments to forward individuals’ information to elections officials, who would then send the person a notification that they’ll be registered to vote after 21-days. Anyone can opt out of the registration before that 21-day window is up, but they will be automatically registered unless they do so.”
The bill was reportedly in the works before Clinton’s speech, but the former Secretary of State’s endorsement of the idea helped create interest in Cicilline’s plan – as of this morning, it’s already picked up 46 co-sponsors.
Obviously, in a Republican-run Congress, efforts like these stand no chance of success, but there’s movement on this issue for the first time in a while, thanks at least in part to Clinton putting the problem on the nation’s front-burner.
There’s even action in New Jersey, which Gov. Chris Christie (R) mysteriously believes is home to a cesspool of imaginary voter fraud.
ThinkProgress noted yesterday that the Republican governor isn’t interested in expanding voter access, but the Democratic-run legislature has its own ideas on the subject.
Democratic leaders plan to introduce and fast-track the “Democracy Act” this week which would make it the second state to adopt automatic voter registration and would expand early voting opportunities, among other changes. […]New Jersey currently ranks 39th in the country in both percentage of eligible voters who are registered and percentage of voters who actually case a ballot, according to [New Jersey Working Families]. The state does not allow in-person early voting, but requires citizens who want to cast an absentee ballot early to apply for one at an election official’s office. New Jersey also does not permit online voter registration, something that is allowed in 33 other states.
In fairness, progressive efforts to expand voting opportunities aren’t exactly new, so it’s a stretch to say Clinton deserves all of the credit for the recent flurry of activity. Some of the latest developments were in motion prior to two weeks ago.
But it also seems fair to say she deserves at least some of the credit – she showed some leadership on an important issue, and it’s led to renewed calls for progressive change.