In the firestorm that followed the 2010 election cycle that gave Republicans control of the House and state legislatures across the nation, there has been a furious effort in several states to implement new voting rules that threaten to make it more difficult and in some cases impossible for certain groups to vote. But with a little less than a year out from the 2012 election, Democratic lawmakers are determined to fight the new regulations, which they say aim to violate the voting rights of minorities and low-income, elderly and college-age voters.
Speaking from the House floor Wednesday night, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, said outright that Republican governors and legislatures are using voter identification laws to suppress Democratic turnout in 2012.
“State legislatures are attempting to impose voting restrictions that are the modern day equivalent of poll taxes and literacy tests,” she said in remarks delivered on the House floor. “We cannot allow state legislatures to drag our nation backward in nothing more than a political quest to protect their governing majority’s interests.”
Wasserman Schultz cited efforts in Florida to restrict early voting periods, which she said could prevent people who work in low-wage positions from casting ballots because they can’t stand in hours-long lines at the polls, and a new requirement that shortens the period during which groups like the NAACP and League of Women Voters must turn in registration forms for new voters from 10 days to 48 hours. She also said that in a budget-cutting effort, some states are shutting down driver’s license offices in communities with large Black and Latino populations, making it even more difficult for them to get the requisite photo ID needed to vote.
“It’s clear that these Republican legislatures, led by Republican governors, just don’t think that they can win an election on the merits,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And so they need an insurance policy, because in the event voters actually decide that no, Republicans aren’t interested in creating jobs, no, they’re not interested in getting the economy turned around, and gee, maybe I’d like to actually go to the polls and vote for the candidate of my choice, they are using the insurance policy of voter suppression laws to make sure that people who are likely to go to the polls and vote for someone other than them can’t do it.”
House Democrats, who hope to regain control of their chamber, are taking the voting rights issue very seriously. They held a hearing on the subject earlier this week and say that they will make it an ongoing priority.
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)