In North Carolina this week, some Republican lawmakers unveiled some new ideas. Are they related to jobs, jobs, jobs? I’m afraid not – GOP legislators in the state hope to cut the early-voting window in half, eliminate same-day voter registration, and end Sunday voting.
If this seems rather familiar, there’s a good reason. In 2011 and 2012, Republican policymakers at the state level invested all kinds of time and energy into approving the most sweeping voting restrictions since the Jim Crow era, and as Ari Berman reported yesterday, in 2013, they’re picking up where they left off.
In 2011 and 2012, 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states. Ultimately, twenty-five laws and two executive actions were passed in nineteen states following the 2010 election to make it harder to vote. In many cases, these laws backfired on their Republican sponsors. The courts blocked ten of them, and young and minority voters—the prime target of the restrictions—formed a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than in 2008.
Despite the GOP’s avowal to reach out to new constituencies following the 2012 election, Republican state legislators have continued to support new voting restrictions in 2013.
We’re just three months into the year, but Berman reports that we’ve already seen 55 new voting restrictions proposed in 30 states. It is, as Project Vote’s Erin Ferns Lee put it, “an onslaught.”
It’s worth noting that different states are considering different voting restrictions. Some are pushing voter-ID laws, while others are considering banning election-day voter registration. Some want proof-of-citizenship requirements, while others intend to reduce early voting. Some are pushing efforts to purge voter rolls, while at least one state (Virginia) is eyeing a bill to disenfranchise ex-felons.
Many of these efforts are in the South, and may run into Voting Rights Act troubles if approved, but let’s also not forget that Supreme Court conservatives may very well be poised to destroy the Voting Rights Act altogether.
We talked this morning about President Obama’s election-reform commission, and voting-rights advocates can certainly hope something worthwhile will come of their efforts, but in the meantime, the political world is once again faced with a systemic issue: a few too many Republican policymakers appear desperate to put new hurdles between voters and the ballot box. It didn’t much matter in 2012, but they’re intent on keeping the “war on voting” going anyway.
With this in mind, Jamelle Bouie raises an important point.
The GOP just can’t hire new personnel if it wants to make headway with nonwhite voters. They need to show real interest in the particular priorities of minority voters. And that begins with abandoning the drive to limit their presence at the polls. Because in the end, Republican protests notwithstanding, that is the practical effect of the voter identification laws pushed and passed by GOP legislatures.
“[S]tudy after study,” writes Berman, “has shown that voter ID laws disproportionately impact young and minority voters. Not only are these constituencies less likely to have photo ID, but even in states without ID laws, black and Hispanic youth were significantly more likely than whites to be asked to show ID.”
The RNC’s Reince Priebus says he’s entirely sincere about reaching out to minority voters and bringing minority communities into his party’s tent. I’m skeptical, but that’s what he’s said.
If the RNC chair means it, though, he can prove it rather easily – denounce Republican efforts to make voting more difficult and publicly reject proposals that disproportionately affect minorities.