Dr. James Joyner sends up a rather typical piece from the New York Times this week on how Republicans are making it harder for Democrats to vote. Most of the topics under discussion are nothing new, but the Gray Lady tries to put some new spin on it for the mid-terms.
Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls.
The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.
Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.
Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
The Times article goes on to specifically use the phrase “make it harder to vote” repeatedly. And – of course – the people who are supposed to be finding it “harder” to vote are listed as minorities and the urban poor, who tend to vote Democratic. Joyner seems to see no problem with this finding.
[T]he pattern of states and localities where Republicans control the rule making enacting election rules that just so happen to disadvantage the demographic groups most inclined to vote for Democrats is too consistent and widespread to ignore. That the Republican party is increasingly reliant on older white voters makes these moves seem to be a rather transparent means of eking out a few more wins while they still can.
The article also tackles questions about voter ID, but that’s been covered here ad nauseam. What’s more interesting to me today is the question over voting days and hours. Overlooked in the lengthy flood of analysis is the fact that it is well established that each state decides its own voting procedures, including how and when you vote. While it’s true that some states currently allow for generous, extending polling periods, not all of them do. (As an aside, I’m not talking about absentee voting, which is a separate matter.) If a state decides to tighten up the window for voting, that applies to everyone. If you find a state trying to say that Republicans get seven days to vote and Democrats only get five, let me know. I’ll be right there with you protesting the law.
And while I suppose that having more days to vote may wind up seeing more people go to the polls, a failure to provide for that doesn’t seem to bother Democrats all the time. For example, I live in New York. Do you know how long we have to vote in person? One day. And it’s a Tuesday. The polls open by 6 AM and close at 8 PM. That’s all you get. So why aren’t Democrats fighting tooth and nail against this horribly unfair voting restriction? Because Democrats always carry New York in national elections so it’s no big thing.
The bottom line here is that the laws are – and must be – the same for everyone. Saying that one particular demographic group has a “harder time” getting to the polls or that they need special Sunday voting hours because they caravan to the polling place after church sounds a bit less than equal, doesn’t it? If I were to make any argument about the unfair nature of the system, it would be to note that rural voters tend to have to travel further to get to the polls than tightly packed urban precincts. Of course, over a national average, rural voters tend to lean more conservative / Republican, so I suppose that’s not worth arguing over.