Monday, September 19, 2011

There is a war against voting. Attack back.

The Republican Party is waging a war on voting. This Rolling Stone article by Ari Berman explains it.

Republicans have taken control of several state governments and have implemented new laws designed to deny Americans the ability to vote in the presidential election. By making American citizens carry a photo ID with their current address before voting, by reducing the days and hours when polling places are open and by making citizens jump through administrative hoops just to register at their current address, these Republicans intend to win elections by keeping people who intend to vote Democratic from ever casting a ballot.

It’s appalling. And it is time to attack back.

Republicans may control state governments. But Democrats control local governments. And the best way to attack the Republican push to keep Americans from voting is to pass local laws and programs that will result in more people voting.

What can Democratic cities and counties do? Plenty. One main target of the Republican assault: people who move. Republican base voters are older, conservative people who have lived in the same house for years. Younger people who rent (and move every year) are more liberal and vote for Democrats. That’s why Republicans pass laws to make people submit paperwork to some obscure government agency every time they move to update their new address, because lots of people won’t know to do it, and then they won’t be able to vote.

So we can attack back by making sure people who move know they have to follow the ridiculous rule to register at their current address. We can pass local laws that require every landlord to give a voter registration form to every new tenant when they sign a lease. We can pass local laws that require every utility company to include a voter registration form in the first month’s bill for every new customer. And every city and county we control can automatically submit a completed voter registration form for their citizens whenever they update their address with the city or county through a car registration or school address or park program.

And we should really take the responsibility as a government to create an up-to-date voter registration list and proactively register our citizens to vote, rather than putting that burden on the citizen. The unique ID number that each state already issues to each citizen for their drivers license or state ID should be the same unique voter ID in a statewide database for voter registration, so that millions of Americans won't fall through the cracks and not get registered to vote.

Not every Republican elected official is part of the war against voting. And truth be told, some Democratic electeds have joined that war. When I have drafted, lobbied and passed pro-voter laws in Illinois, there were usually one or two Republicans who would vote for the bill, and one or two Democrats who would vote against it. So there are exceptions. But by and large, 95% of the Republicans were against my bills that got more people voting (and were quite clear they didn't want people to vote!) and 95% of the Democrats were for the bills.

There is a war going on. And we’ve been losing it. It’s time for local Democratic leaders to join the rebel forces that are fighting back. For every law they pass that will block one person from voting, we will pass a law that will bring a ballot to one more person. We will not let them win elections by disenfranchising Americans. We will attack back over the next 12 months with new local laws, programs and initiatives to get citizens in Democratic cities and counties registered to vote and prepared to do so under the new rules, so that in November of 2012, the greatest possible number of Americans will choose our leaders.

No government policy should stand between an American and her ballot. Let's attack back.