In one of her first speeches as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton took aim straight at the GOP—including several Republican governors in the 2016 field—for what she categorized as a widespread undermining of the American people’s right to vote.

“We have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country,” said Clinton, who spoke Thursday at Texas Southern University in Houston after receiving an award. “Because what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other.”

She said the Republican Party “at all levels of government” must stop “fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic” of voter fraud and explain “why they’re so scared of letting citizens have their say.”

Clinton’s message Thursday at the historically black university was aimed at a community she’ll need to win over if she has any hope of making it to the White House: black voters.

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A Democratic legal fight against restrictive voting laws enacted in recent years by Republican-controlled state governments is being largely paid for by a single liberal benefactor: the billionaire philanthropist George Soros

Mr. Soros has already agreed to put as much as $5 million into the litigation effort, which Democrats hope will erode restrictions on voter access that they say could otherwise prove decisive in a close election.

The lawsuits — which are being led by a lawyer whose clients include Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — are attacking a variety of measures, including voter-identification requirements that Democrats consider onerous, time restrictions imposed on early voting that they say could make it difficult to cast ballots the weekend before Election Day, and rules that could nullify ballots cast in the wrong precinct…

Mr. Soros described himself as “proud” to be part of the legal battles. “We hope to see these unfair laws, which often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, repealed,” he said.

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One big concern bedeviling progressives is that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy will mark the return of triangulation—the preemptive ceding of ideological turf, at a time when, thanks to partisan polarization, such concessions amount to outright victories for the Republican Party. But the early days of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy suggest these fears are overblown—that she is engaged in an entirely different kind of political positioning, one that carries the promise of significant progressive victories or at least of clarifying the terms of key policy debates dividing the parties…

Most Democrats have been engaged for some time now in rearguard actions to protect voters from disenfranchisement efforts, and promote a remedy to the damage the Supreme Court did to the Voting Rights Act. These are important efforts, but easily countered. It isn’t unpopular to argue that voters should have to show ID, for instance, or to rail against phantom voter fraud, and it’s easy to gloss over the complex nature of the Voting Rights Act in ways that obscure the real goal of these policies, which is to systemically reduce turnout among disproportionately Democratic constituencies—the poor, the young, and ethnic minorities.

Clinton’s plan, by contrast, demands clarity from her opponents. She has proposed that every American, except those who opt out, be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, and that every state offer at least 20 days’ worth of early voting. Republicans can’t easily oppose this—and oppose it they must—without being explicit about the fact that they want to keep the voting rolls as trim as possible.

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This was her first capital-P Political speech of the campaign, and that she chose to make that speech about this topic and not a broader economic one, or one aimed squarely at women, say, demonstrates clearly enough that Clinton is concerned about getting out the black vote

When I was young I thought Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party was bad on race, and it was, but the GOP is a far more openly and aggressively anti-black-people party today. Back then, there were still a fair number of moderate Republicans in the House and Senate who voted for civil rights measures. Arguably the greatest legal crusader against segregation of the 1960s and 1970s was a Republican, the venerable John Doar. Heck, Republicans in Congress even reauthorized the VRA when Dubya was president! Those days are long, long gone. Maybe not forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future.

Clinton will have to work it. And she is—a proposal for automatic voter registration for every citizen who turns 18 (unless that citizen decides to opt out), which she called for in the speech, is great stuff. But her competition—unless they nominate Rand Paul, which seems increasingly unlikely—is making it easier for her. She probably won’t duplicate Obama’s numbers, but if someone wants to bet you that her black-vote totals will be closer to John Kerry’s than to Obama’s, that’s a bet I’d advise you to take in heartbeat.

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Accusing her of “dividing Americans” and political pandering, several of Hillary Clinton’s potential Republican rivals fired back Friday after the Democratic frontrunner accused them of trying to make it more difficult for Americans — particularly minorities and young people — to vote…

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican considering a presidential run, accused Clinton on Friday of “demagoguery.”

Ohio has an extensive early-voting period of nearly a month. And Kasich noted Clinton’s state of New York doesn’t even offer that kind of early-voting period. 

“Don’t come in and say we are trying to keep people from voting when her own state has less opportunity for voting,” Kasich told Fox News. “And she is going to sue my state? That’s just silly.”

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Kasich added that he doesn’t “know who put her up to this,” but said the election should be focused on “who’s going to improve America, not who’s going to divide America better than somebody else.”

“We live in a time when race relations are very sensitive, and using that kind of reckless language is not helpful to this country,” said Kasich, whose state has recently experienced a racially-fraught police shooting…

Walker, whom Clinton referred to in Houston, returned fire on Friday. “Hillary Clinton’s rejection of efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat not only defies logic, but the will of the majority of Americans,” he said, in a statement sent by AshLee Strong, national press secretary of his political committee, Our American Revival.  “Once again, Hillary Clinton’s extreme views are far outside the mainstream.”

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“I’m not against early voting,” [Rand] Paul told Bloomberg. “I grew up in Texas, where we have early voting, and we’re a dominant Republican state — so I don’t think it necessarily favors one party over the other. Each state should decide that. The Constitution and the history of the legal cases has been pretty clear that each state gets to determine the time and manner of the elections. I wouldn’t have the federal government interfere and tell any state how to do it. The Fourteenth Amendment, I think, allows the government to get involved if there is a racial bias. I am fine with the federal government intervening in those cases.”

Automatic registration, said Paul, was “sort of [up to] time and manner” of the states, as well. “I think each state has their own registration — and I think Oregon just mails it to you, which I think is a bad idea,” said Paul. “You ought to confirm who you are. I’m not against there being a little bit of effort, but we shouldn’t make it hard. We shouldn’t do things to prevent people from voting, but we shouldn’t do things that encourage lapses in the system that allow people who aren’t legitimate voters.”…

Pressed by NH1 reporter Paul Steinhauser at his Manchester campaign headquarters opening, Paul refused to say whether his party was making voting more difficult. “I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is what I’m trying to do, and I think it’s a good idea for the Republicans to be a party that is for the vote, that is for allowing people to vote.”

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As many have noted, the support of those groups [of young, poor, and minority voters] is seen as crucial for Mrs. Clinton to win the White House. But the struggle between Republicans and Democrats over voting administration isn’t at the core of what’s causing voters to disengage from the political process. There are benefits to making it easier for people to register, but it would take a lot more to energize potential voters who have been sitting out.

A recent New York Times-CBS News poll found that Democrats, Republicans, and independents say, by overwhelming margins, that the wealthy have more influence on elections than most Americans. Eighty-four percent said they believe money has too much influence on political campaigns, and 85% said this country’s system for funding campaigns needs fundamental changes or to be completely rebuilt…

These feelings that the political and economic systems are rigged and that our political leaders aren’t paying attention to the concerns of most Americans are at the heart of why voter turnout last year was the lowest in a mid-term election since 1942.

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Friday on Bloomberg TV’s “With All Due Respect,” filling in for John Heilemann, Campbell Brown said when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accused Republicans of intentionally attempting to disenfranchise voters based on race, age and poverty level, her speech writers did “not do their homework” because she called for a 20-day voting periods and is currently suing Ohio, which has a 28-day voting period.

In discussing the various Republican candidates’ reactions today, Brown said, “I think Kasich’s in particular is very effective and it makes no sense to me. Her lawyers are bringing this lawsuit in Ohio where they have 28 early voting days. In the speech yesterday, she called for 20 voting days. So, they are suing in a place where they have a policy more expansive than what she is calling for in her own speeches. Whoever wrote her speech, there was a typo or they did not do their homework and they made a mistake, because it makes no sense. And it’s easy for them to call her out on it.”

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Supporters of these laws argue that even one fraudulent vote is a tragedy in a democracy. But to critics, preventing even one eligible voter from exercising the right to vote seems equally tragic. And that, in fact, that seems to be a much more common effect of these laws…

Nate Silver looked at the literature on voter-ID laws a few years ago and concluded that although there’s lots of superficial disagreement, most studies come to a similar conclusion: The laws reduce turnout by about 2 percent of the registered number of voters in a state. John Sides did the same, but found the evidence inconclusive.

But whatever its merits, Clinton’s gambit also poses a political paradox. While Clinton’s proposals might lead to a fairer landscape for voters overall if enacted, the very gambit undermines itself. Because she’s the Democratic frontrunner, she is able to put the issue on the national agenda like no one else—as the last 24 hours have shown. But because she’s the Democratic frontrunner, she’s also likely to make the issue so politically toxic that no Republican will be willing to touch it. Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, some Republicans—most notably Representative James Sensenbrenner—have voiced a desire to restore the law. Clinton’s proposal, of course, would push farther than that. If Clinton keeps speaking up, it’s likely to keep any Republicans from sticking their heads up to agree. (The Democratic push is even being funded by George Soros.) And without voting-rights reform, it’s difficult for Democrats to turn out enough voters to secure the majorities necessary to overcome their opposition.

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