For proponents of voting rights, I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is, not every state is trying to place new hurdles between Americans and the ballot box. State lawmakers in Vermont this week easily approved an Election Day Registration bill that allows voters to show up, register, and cast a ballot, all on the same trip. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has vowed to sign the measure into law.
The bad news is, recent progress elsewhere is elusive. MSNBC’s Zachary Roth reported yesterday on new-found opposition to online voter registration “in some big Republican-led states.”
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has used some outlandish claims in opposing an online registration measure. In Texas, GOP lawmakers voted down a similar bill citing concerns about fraud. And in Ohio, an online voter registration bill being pushed by the Republican secretary of state is stalled in the GOP-controlled legislature.The emerging intra-party split on the issue underscores a stark reality: Despite record low turnout last November, there are now essentially no policies for significantly expanding access to the polls – save perhaps uncontroversial proposals to help service-members vote – that the GOP wholeheartedly supports.
Wait, it gets a little worse.
Ohio Republicans have already taken a series of steps to impose new voting restrictions since 2011, but msnbc’s Roth also reported this week on a new voter-ID bill pending in the state capitol.
Legislation introduced last week by conservatives in the statehouse would require that voters show a driver’s license, passport or military ID. They could also get a special state ID card which costs $8.50, or is free for those who make less than the federal poverty line – $11,770 a year.The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andrew Brenner, has offered the usual rationale: the need to stop illegal voting by non-residents, non-citizens or others.
Voter fraud in Ohio is largely imaginary, and since non-citizen residents in the state can already get driver’s licenses, the proponents of the measure may not have thought this one all the way through.
In Texas, meanwhile, the state’s harsh voter-ID law has struggled in the courts, but an appeals court recently suggested it’s ready to give the ruling a second look.
In the meantime, the Texas Observer reported last week that there’s some interest in making the state’s voter-ID even worse.
As for Congress, the odds of the Republican-led Congress even considering repairing the Voting Rights Act remain roughly zero.
Update: In an unexpected move, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) agreed this morning to move forward with online voter registration.