In recent years, Republican efforts to curtail voting rights have led to the largest voter-suppression campaign since the Jim Crow era, but there are some states pushing back against the tide. Oregon recently took creative new steps to expand voter registration, and policymakers in California yesterday said they’re eager to follow suit. Vermont may soon do the same.
But in Republican-controlled “red” states, policies intended to prevent voter participation continue to proliferate. The Columbus Dispatch reports on the latest out of Ohio.
Dismissing Democrats’ cries of voter suppression, majority legislative Republicans are poised to require those who register to vote in Ohio to also obtain state driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. […]Democrats tried to remove the provision, saying it constitutes a “poll tax” on out-of-state college students, who would have to spend $75 or more on license and registration fees within 30 days of registering to vote.
As the Dispatch article notes, current law in Ohio allows students, among others, to claim Ohio residency and vote while retaining out-of-state drivers’ licenses. This change – a “last-minute addition” to Ohio’s transportation budget – may force tens of thousands of young people to pay a fair amount of money to cast a ballot in the state they call home.
Republican proponents say the idea isn’t related to blocking students’ access to the polls. These are the same policymakers who, in recent years, have curtailed voter registration, made it harder for voters to receive absentee ballots, cut back early-voting opportunities, and scrapped Sunday voting altogether.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, then, that GOP state lawmakers have also imposed a new hurdle on young adults who, it so happens, tend to vote Democratic.
In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is urging supporters to send him money in celebration of his voter-ID scheme that may disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters in his state. Benjy Sarlin reported today:
If you want to understand the meat of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s electoral strategy, the best place to start might be voter ID.Walker emailed supporters on Wednesday asking for donations to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow Wisconsin’s voter ID law to go forward, despite protests from critics who argue it will keep eligible voters from the polls in response to a negligible number of in-person voter fraud cases.
In an ugly twist of irony, Walker’s fundraising letter tells prospective donors that thanks to his voter-ID law, “Democracy’s most precious gift is protected.”
* Update: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) today said in an official statement: “This measure is about residency for purposes of vehicle registration with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and has nothing to do with participation in elections. After a thorough review, we find nothing in this provision that makes it harder to register to vote or cast a ballot.”
Husted, it’s worth noting, has invested considerable energy in recent years in approving new restrictions on voting.