Liberal activists are urging people to stay registered to vote after President Donald Trump’s new election integrity commission’s request for voter data spooked some Americans and caused them to cancel their registrations. Colorado got a burst of publicity after more than 3,700 residents canceled voter registrations, according to media reports. And while that’s a tiny percentage of total voters in the state, activists said it’s the wrong response to the federal government’s request for state voter information. “We don’t want people to be afraid of registering — not to do so is to play into the hands of the voter suppressors,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “To the thousands of people who have deregistered: go reregister and bring two others.”
Since Gov. Corbett signed Pennsylvania’s voter-identification bill into law two weeks ago, Philadelphia advocacy groups have been scrambling to educate and assist voters, who will now need a state-sanctioned photo ID to vote in November. I visited a lot of places and talked to plenty of people last week, and I can tell you this: The process is far from the smooth road proponents had predicted. You know what a nightmare PennDot can be. Yep, bumpy, even on a good day. Well, on the day I showed up at Eighth and Arch Streets last week, PennDot resembled a modern-day Tower of Babel – everybody talking, no one quite understanding what the other was saying.
Not only are Americans divided over the presidential candidates, they appear to be divided over how people should vote for those candidates. Texas tea partyers have launched an election-monitoring effort designed to weed out voter fraud. Civil rights groups call it an elaborate intimidation scheme targeting minority voters.
“They’re trying to put in place a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, adding that voter fraud is uncommon.
With Republicans taking control of most U.S. capitols this year and a presidential race looming, states have passed the most election-related laws since 2003 in a push to tighten voting rules. Forty-seven states have enacted 285 election-related laws this year, and 60 percent were in states with Republican governors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Democrats are pushing back by vetoing photo- identification laws in five states and trying to repeal other voting laws in Maine and Ohio, where President Barack Obama’s campaign is promoting the effort.
It’s the “battle before the battle” as both parties fight for what they think are the most advantageous and fairest rules, said Doug Chapin, director of an elections-administration program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
“We’re at a level of activity that I don’t think I’ve ever seen,” Chapin said in a telephone interview. “You’ve got the combination of a fiercely divided nation, uncertainty about what the rules are and a belief that every single vote counts.”
The ACLU of Wisconsin is using local food pantries as a means to gather data about the impacts of the recently passed voter ID bill. Outspokenly opposed to the voter ID bill in Wisconsin, the ACLU of Wisconsin called the measure the “the worst and most restrictive we’ve seen,” explaining that the bill would “deny potentially thousands of voters the right to freely cast a ballot based on the non-existent problem of so-called voter fraud.” When the bill was signed into law on May 26, the ACLU went right to work to prepare a lawsuit like the one they filed recently in Ohio.
Their first step was to gather data. And what better place to find all those “disenfranchised voters” than at a food pantry.
Except, that is, when Republicans want to impose tighter rules for their political benefit. A case in point is the flurry of states —six so far this year— rushing to pass laws requiring voters to bring government-issued photo IDs to polling places. All have Republican governors and GOP-controlled legislatures.
Opposing View: ID laws ensure election integrity
Supporters say this is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But the operative question is: Why, at a time of economic distress and state budget shortfalls, is this such a priority? The answer has less to do with prevention than with suppression.