Republicans – with a helping nudge from the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority (of which more below) – are passing restrictive voting laws in states where they control both branches of government. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding voting rights in states where they dominate the governing process. Democrats Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Lewis of Georgia also introduced a bill in Congress at the end of June that would require states (mostly in the South) to get federal approval for any changes in any statewide voting laws or procedures. This battle is especially important for a presidential election year, when voter turnout is significantly higher than in midterm elections. Much of the difference in the turnout is made up of prime Democratic constituencies – the young and minorities – which explains why Democrats are so set on increasing turnout and Republicans would prefer to restrict it.
Under the banner of preventing ”voter fraud,” GOP lawmakers are making it harder for people to register to vote by requiring photo-ID documents and by limiting early and weekend voting, which is more frequently used by those who find it hard to get to the polls on a Tuesday. In many inner cities, for example, black churches have run “souls to the polls” caravans on the Sunday before election day.
Republicans in Maine went so far as to repeal their long-standing Election Day Registration law (EDR); however voters reinstated it in 2011 when Democrats managed to place the issue on a referendum ballot.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have successfully extended Election Day registration in the blue states of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, California and Rhode Island, bringing the number of EDR states to 13 plus the District of Columbia.