President Obama recently gave a speech in which he claimed that voting rights were under attack, saying “The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” adding “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”
No one can deny that fact.
In fact, the New York Times reports, “Over the last 15 months, at least nine states have enacted voting changes making it harder to cast ballots. A federal judge last month upheld laws in Arizona and Kansas requiring proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, leading other states to explore following suit.”
When President Obama says that voting rights are under attack, what he actually means is that voting rights are under attack in some parts of the country.
Over the last four years, some states have made it easier to register to vote.
A recent study by Pew research found that “13 states offered online voter registration in 2012, compared with just two in 2008.”
The reports also “shows that states offering more convenient opportunities for voter registration had a lower rate of rejected registrations, lower use of provisional ballots, and fewer voters unable to cast ballots due to registration problems.” But, this still only looks at a small part of the issue.
The Pew Research also found that “Overall voter turnout dropped 3.4 percentage points in 2012 from 2008. Turnout percentages in the Midwest and Northeast were higher than in the South in 2012. Two Midwestern states — Minnesota and Wisconsin — had the highest turnout rate in both 2008 and 2012.”
Again, this is only looking at part of the issue. Ballot access remains the elephant in the room.
Richard Winger says that even though the Pew study did look at ballot access “some of the states found to have the poorest performance happen to be states with severe ballot access laws, such as Alabama, California, and Oklahoma.”
This November, Oklahoma will mark seven consecutive elections with only two parties on their ballot.
Oklahoma also prohibits write-in votes, and removes single-candidate races, like the five statewide races this year with only one candidate, from the ballot.
Oklahoma is just one example.
Across the country, both major parties have been responsible for passing laws, and filing lawsuits, to keep opposing candidates off the ballot, which has an indirect effect of reducing voter turnout.
If anything is under attack across the country, and by both parties in power, it is voter choice.