Commentary: GOP’s Assault on Voting Rights Is Focused and Vicious

The Republican Party is sparing no effort to make sure that voting becomes more of a challenge for Black, Latino and poor people.

Posted: 04/01/2014 02:29 PM EDT

One thing you have to give conservative Republicans: They have developed a laser-like focus to accomplish their goals of winning back the White House no matter how solidly they trample on the basic rights of Americans to cast ballots.

For Republicans, the desire to regain the presidency is sufficient motivation to unleash an assault on voting rights that has not been seen in American history since the end of Reconstruction. Their aim is to do what they can to make it more challenging for the traditional Democratic voters to cast ballots. And there is no voter more reliably Democratic-leaning than the African-American.

The New York Times recently chronicled how Republican-led legislatures in the nation’s pivotal swing states are enacting new restrictions on voting even beyond the controversial identification requirements. They are changing the times and days that polls are open and the locations of polling places.

A particular favorite, it seems, is to cut down on early voting and weekend and Sunday voting, a feature that had become especially popular among African-American voters in urban areas. A recent tradition has emerged under which buses of Black churchgoers would cast their ballots after the Sunday service.

For GOP officials in a number of states, anything that would encourage Black people to vote has to be attacked. As a result, any initiatives to encourage voting by Black and Latino voters must be ripped to shreds. For Republicans, the right to vote is something that should only be guaranteed to them.

There are nine states many of them critical swing states that have enacted laws to add difficulty to voting. They call for voters to produce either proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate or a passport. Not everyone has these documents, particularly working-class or low-income African-Americans. And obtaining them can be time consuming and costly, a decided discouragement to voting.

There is a profound need for a full-throated response to this attack on voting rights. And it should come not just from Democrats, but from progressive-minded people everywhere. Indeed, even sensible Republicans who are committed to the ideal that voting is a right that should be made as accessible and open as possible should speak out.

Moreover, this should further inspire African-Americans to come to the polls in this year’s midterm elections and beyond and to make a bold statement that Blacks are determined to exercise the right to vote no matter how organized and vicious the effort to prevent that from happening is.

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 (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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