A massive 196 House Democrats — nearly their entire caucus — signed a letter to state election officials asking them to “put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for enfranchisement” during this unfortunate era of voter disenfranchising state laws:
Beginning with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Congress and election officials across the country have worked on a bipartisan basis to open our democracy to all our citizens. Removing unnecessary barriers to voting was a cause shared across party lines. Sometimes, these efforts were directed at laws and practices that were intentionally created to deny citizens their right to vote. Other times, the laws or practices were relics of a prior era and served no continuing purpose. [...]
But a disturbing trend is emerging. Election legislation and administration appear to be increasingly the product of partisan plays. Election officials are seen as partisan combatants, rather than stewards of our democracy. It is critical for our democracy that this does not continue. Voting hours, voting sites, identification requirements, voter registration regulation and access to mail ballots should not be used as weapons to achieve a preferred electoral outcome.
It’s tough to imagine a starker contrast between the vision this letter offers and the antics we are currently seeing in many GOP-controlled states. The House Democratic letter does not call upon state officials to rig their election procedures to bring more Democrats to the polls, it simply says that everyone has a basic right to vote. Under this vision, the American people have every right to choose a Republican government, but this choice must be made freely and with the input of every single eligible voter.
Yet, in state after state, governors and state lawmakers are asserting a drastically different vision. In the last few years, numerous states have enacted so-called “voter ID” laws which do nothing more than disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of student, minority and low-income voters. Republicans typically justify these voter disenfranchisement laws by claiming that they are necessary to combat voter fraud at the polls, but in-person voter fraud is only slightly more common than unicorns. A recent Supreme Court opinion allowing a voter ID law to take effect was only able to cite one example of in-person voter fraud in the last 143 years.
Nor are voter ID laws the only Republican assault on our right to choose our own leaders. Republican lawmakers have gutted public financing laws that allow candidates without major corporate or other wealth backers to still compete in elections — even as Republican Supreme Court justices open the floodgates for corporations to buy elections. Republican officials have made it harder to register to vote, harder to vote early, and they have declared war on the landmark Voting Rights Act. Pennsylvania Republicans have even proposed rigging the Electoral College to help ensure that a Republican becomes president in 2013.
In other words, as former President Bill Clinton recently explained, we are now seeing the most “determined effort to limit the franchise” since Jim Crow.