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Why Democrats can't 'out-organize' voter-suppression policies

The solution to an anti-election crusade isn't some undefined organizing campaign; the solution is federal voting rights legislation.


President Joe Biden and his team have said all the right things about protecting voting rights, but it's not altogether clear if the White House has a detailed plan. It's one thing to get the principles right, it's something else to follow through with policy.

It was against this backdrop that the New York Times reported last week:

Ultimately, the advocates fear that the Biden administration ... has largely accepted the Republican restrictions as baked in, and is now dedicating more of its effort to juicing Democratic turnout. In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to "out-organize voter suppression," according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.

In practical terms, the apparent idea behind Democrats "out-organizing voter suppression" involves overcoming Republican-imposed hurdles through doing the hard work of registering, motivating, and turning out Democratic voters, effectively circumventing the obstacles GOP officials are putting between voters and their own democracy.

This is not a good plan.

Right off the bat, it's important to emphasize that voter suppression is wrong. For Democrats -- and democrats, for that matter -- to tolerate it because they believe Republican schemes can be overcome through hard work is a mistake.

But that's just the start. The purported White House approach is also based on a series of dubious assumptions. For example, it's impossible to "out-organize" partisan gerrymandering. For that matter, with Republican officials in some states concocting plans in which local election results can be overturned through new GOP-imposed election-administration laws, there's no "organizing" solution that would help.

What's more, let's not forget that the Republicans' anti-election campaign isn't based on temporary fixes: these are new, permanent, state-level laws that will remain on the books indefinitely. If the plan is for Democrats to "out-organize" their GOP opponents forever, it leaves Republicans with an even greater built-in electoral advantage.

Politico published a related report this morning, adding, "Interviews with more than three dozen Democratic elected officials, party operatives and voting rights activists across the country reveal growing concern — bordering on alarm — about the potential impact in 2022 of the raft of new laws passed by Republican legislatures, particularly in some of the nation's most competitive battleground states."

The solution isn't some undefined organizing campaign; the solution is federal voting rights legislation.