Paul Schurick’s recent conviction for voter fraud is a sad coda to the 2010 Martin O’Malley-Bob Ehrlich gubernatorial rematch: Sad because Mr. Schurick tainted his reputation as one of the state’s best political strategists, and sadder because Governor O’Malley almost certainly would have been re-elected no matter what late-campaign shenanigans Mr. Schurick pulled.
But the saddest thing about Schurick’s conviction is that his actions are merely one small part of a larger and more systematic attempt by conservative strategists to find ways to suppress voter turnout in service to Republican partisan advantage. Unlike in the Schurick case, most such efforts are perfectly legal (though certainly unsavory).
Let’s take a quick tour of the voter-suppression activities under way across the nation. In the past year, 19 new laws and two executive orders were issued in 14 states to create stricter voter identification requirements. These measures were supported and passed largely by Republicans after gaining control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in 2010. Their aim is to constrict the electorate for 2012 and beyond.
Voter-suppression efforts take one of two complementary forms: restricting ballot access by enacting new or stronger identification requirements for voters to register, and limiting the time window during which voters can register, such as eliminating same-day registration and voting.
In either form, ballot restrictions disproportionately disfranchise poorer and nonwhite voters, as well as senior citizens and college-age students. How do we know this? A report by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice showed that an estimated 11 percent of Americans lack a government-issued photo identification with a current, accurate address. But the shares of Americans in the groups mentioned above who lack an ID are higher.
Younger, poorer and nonwhite voters lean overwhelmingly Democratic, of course. And although Republicans generally fare well among seniors — they were the only age cohort John McCain carried over Barack Obama in 2008 — many of the seniors lacking proper identification are poor, urban minorities also unlikely to support the GOP.