Clinton "lets rip" on voting rights
by Tom Sullivan
County elections staff met here last night with party officials to discuss recruiting election judges and poll workers for the next two years.** It all went smoothly until a man in the back asked what was being done to prevent people from voting here and then voting absentee in another state. You might as well ask what North Carolina is doing to prevent its 10 million residents from robbing convenience stores in Florida.
The electoral paranoia behind that question — and the Republican-sponsored voting restrictions spawned nationwide by it — was on Hillary Clinton's mind yesterday when she called for universal, automatic voter registration at a speech in Houston yesterday. Reporters knew the speech would be about voting rights, Rachel Maddow noted last night, but nobody knew Clinton was about to "let rip" on the subject of voting rights:
[W]e have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country—because what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.
North Carolina passed a bill that went after pretty much anything that makes voting more convenient or more accessible. Early voting. Same-day registration. The ability of county election officials to even extend voting hours to accommodate long lines.
Now what possible reason could there be to end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and eliminate voter outreach in high schools?
Reason had nothing to do with it (as the gentleman's question last night demonstrated). Clinton went on to criticize the Supreme Court for eviscerating a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But she reserved even harsher criticism for her GOP opponents: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. In the end, she called for modernizing registration nationally on the Oregon model:
And I believe we should go even further to strengthen voting rights in America. So today I am calling for universal, automatic voter registration. Every citizen, every state in the Union. Everyone, every young man or young woman should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18—unless they actively choose to opt out. But I believe this would have a profound impact on our elections and our democracy. Between a quarter and a third of all eligible Americans remain unregistered and therefore unable to vote.
Greg Sargent at Plum Line writes:
In political terms, Clinton’s call for universal voting registration appears to be a bid to energize millennial voters. As it is, the broader voting access push — like her recent moves leftward on immigration, climate change, and sentencing reform — is partly about mobilizing core Obama coalition groups, including minorities. Today’s proposal is more heavily focused on the young. After all, one of the key unknowns of the cycle is whether Clinton will be able to turn out Obama voters on the same levels he did, and young voters — who were excited by the historical nature of Obama’s candidacy — are key to that.
At the same time, Clinton making voting rights a presidential campaign issue puts Republicans in the position of defending their multitudinous efforts across the country to restrict access to the voting booth. Why do they want to lead they world's oldest democracy when they seem bent on demolishing it by any means necessary?
As Clinton put it yesterday:
Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting. What part of democracy are they afraid of?
** This is the behind the scenes of democracy most voters never see. When they go to the polls on Election Day, voters see maybe five or six people working at their precinct. In my county there are 80 precincts. There are 100 counties in the state. The democratic process involves an awful lot of time and manpower (much of it volunteers), and not just during the weeks before general elections. Political parties are more than partisanship and campaign season. They help administer the democratic process itself.