The Democratic National Committee announced today the hire of Pratt Wiley to serve as its director of voter protection. Wiley, an attorney who performed similar duties for the Obama for America campaign, will be charged with spearheading the DNC's efforts to educate and register voters and challenge policies that make it more difficult for them to vote.
Florida Rep. Debbie Waserman Schultz, who chairs the DNC, said that Wiley "has been a phenomenal champion of that mission" and his expertise will enable the party to build out its proactive voter protection program.
"In the wake of the Supreme Court decision affecting the Voting Rights Act, you've seen states truly across the country changing everything from voter ID laws to times when people can vote, locations where people can vote, methods by which people can vote," Wiley said in an exclusive interview with BET.com. "Our number one priority is to make sure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to register and vote and that they're confident that their vote actually is counted."
Although his primary objective is to protect the fundamental right to vote, it won't hurt if he could also significantly increase turnout in 2014, which, after the government shutdown, is looking up for Democrats.
Mid-term election cycles are traditionally low-turnout affairs that lack the pomp and circumstance of presidential campaign years. But driven by their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and, some might say, to President Obama, Tea Party voters in 2010 headed to the polls in such high numbers that they were able to change the game in the U.S. House of Representatives and in state houses across the nation.
The health care law still stands, but Republican-led state legislatures elected that year have launched a voting rights battle that threatened to disenfranchise millions of African-Americans and other voters in 2012 and could do so in 2014 and beyond.
Wiley says that the DNC's objective is to ensure that all eligible citizens, not just Democrats, are able to vote. The upside, he adds, is that ensuring that more people are able to vote "will be better for our candidates because we're right on the issues" that affect all Americans, and it will also change the playing field to make it more level.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Boston College)