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Home U.S. Democrats, Feeling New Strength, Plan to Go on Offense on Voting Rights

Democrats, Feeling New Strength, Plan to Go on Offense on Voting Rights

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NEW ORLEANS — Over the past two years, Democrats in battleground states have defended Republican efforts to cut voter access and fuel doubts about the nation’s electoral legitimacy.

Now that they have taken control of the state legislatures of Michigan and Minnesota and are ready to launch an offensive in 2023, the Democrats, who hold all but one gubernatorial office, are on the move. A voter registration system, pre-registering her teens to vote before they turn 18, giving felons released from prison a franchise back, and criminalizing election misinformation.

Since 2020, Republicans, inspired by former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies, have tried to make it harder for those who don’t vote in person on Election Day to vote. But in the midterm elections, voters across the country accepted false claims about America’s elections and rejected the most prominent Republican candidate who promised to bend the rules in his party’s favor.

Democrats who have won reelection or will soon be in office interpret their victory as a mission to make voting easier and more accessible.

“I asked them to think big,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz said of his instructions to fellow Democrats on voting issues now that Democrats now control both houses of the state legislature.

Republicans plan to maintain unified control over the state governments of Texas, Ohio, Florida and Georgia next year. In Texas and Ohio, as elsewhere, Republicans are considering additional restrictions on voting during New Year’s convocations.

Democratic governors of Arizona and Wisconsin will face Republican-run Congresses that are broadly hostile to expanding voting rights.Meanwhile, Democratic governor-elect of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, has a Republican majority1. Likely to end up presiding over two parliaments and one parliament with a minority majority.

And in Washington, DC, the Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit that could significantly expand the legislature’s authority over election law. This decision has significant implications for the powers of state legislators to map the legislature and set the rules for federal elections.

Democrats see the lawsuit, filed by the Republican Party of North Carolina, as a danger to democracy due to the potential for aggressive Republican gerrymandering and the possibility that state legislators will decide the outcome of the election. has been widely interpreted. But it also allows the Democrats to give themselves permanent power in states where they control the electoral levers.

Supreme Court deliberations have made many Democrats increasingly vocal about pushing their party more aggressively by expanding voting access, especially after the Senate failed to advance a broad voting rights package this year. This is done when it is supposed to be raised.

Adam Pritzker, cousin of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and co-founder of the States Project, the Democratic group that put more than $60 million into this year’s state legislative election, said of his party’s reflexive complacency: warned. Democrats never cease to amaze me,” he said. It seems a little dangerous to think that way. “

Waltz was one of more than a dozen Democratic governors and governor-elects who met in New Orleans in early December. The topic of protecting and expanding voting rights was a frequent topic in the ballrooms and hallways of the annual meeting of the Democratic Governors Association. winter gathering.

Republicans have been calling for additional voting limits for decades. These efforts will follow several Republican-led states after the 2020 elections, requiring voters to show photo ID, stripping powers from local election commissions, and curtailing some early voting. amplified when it passed new laws including measures such as

The impact of these voting laws remains unknown. In Georgia, which passed major election laws in 2021, voter turnout was high, but mail-in ballots plummeted under the new requirements.

The most popular Democrat plan for voter access is to join the 20 states that have already enacted or approved it. automatic voter registrationis a system that adds anyone whose information is recorded with a government agency (such as the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Social Services) to the voter roll unless they opt out. Oregon, which became the first state to adopt the practice in 2016, had the highest voter turnout in the nation last month, held in Minnesota’s recent election.

Democrat Steve Simon, who was re-elected as Minnesota’s secretary of state, said that automatic voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds before their 18th birthdays are at the top of the voting access agenda for Democrats in Minnesota. He said it would be a priority.

Simon lamented that Minnesota’s voter turnout surpassed both Oregon and Maine, but said the changes he proposed would help bring Minnesota back to the lead.

“We’ll probably be third, but we’re on the medal stand,” said Simon. “They are worthy heirs and temporary holders of moving trophies.”

In Michigan, voters approved constitutional amendments in the last two midterm elections. Expanding Early Voting and Absentee VotingCreated Independent Reorganization Committee Expanded use of dropbox.

At a recent governor’s rally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she supports automatic registration and is considering making it easier for out-of-state students attending Michigan colleges to register to vote. (Republicans in some states are trying to make it harder for out-of-state college students who tend to lean Democratly to vote, arguing they should vote in their own states.)

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced sweeping new rules against the dissemination and amplification of voter-obstructing misinformation while her office worked to implement voter-approved election changes. Want penalties. Things like fliers or mailings with the wrong election date or deceptive language in petitions collected for proposed ballot amendments.

“The greatest threat to our democracy today is the deliberate spread of misinformation and the intimidation and harassment of election officials resulting from those efforts,” Benson said. “We have a responsibility to voters everywhere to hold accountable those who deliberately try to prevent someone from voting with false information.”

Ms. Benson said she believed the measures she was seeking would withstand any challenge under the First Amendment.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Shapiro’s power to appoint top election officials is unusual. In contrast to most other states where elections are conducted by other elected officials or appointed commissions.

He vowed to elect someone “democratic” and said he was optimistic that Republicans would agree to change state laws prohibiting the processing of absentee and early ballots before Election Day. After the 2020 election, Trump’s allies used the law to sow chaos in the state, falsely claiming that absentee ballots counted after Election Day were evidence of voter fraud. I sowed

Shapiro of defeated Republican candidate Doug Mastriano said he was willing to consider several Republican proposals and “meet halfway” if it meant expanding voting rights.

“As long as voter ID doesn’t get in the way of voting, we want to be honest about voter ID,” Shapiro said. “I am not going to negotiate with people who engage in conspiracy theories and spout nonsense about 2020. I would be happy to talk to you.”

Democratic governors in states that aren’t on the national political battlefield have expressed less motivation for drastic changes to voting laws. Maryland’s incoming governor, Wes Moore, said she hasn’t seen much change. I am satisfied,” he said.

Oregon was also the first state to introduce many methods to expand voter access in recent years, including general mail ballots, and incoming Gov. Tina Kotek restricted people from contributing to campaigns. said it aims to Corporation. Nike founder Phil Knight spent millions in a failed effort to beat her.

In two other battlegrounds, Arizona and Wisconsin, Democratic governors may have much less room to work with Republican lawmakers.

Republicans in Wisconsin have spent the better part of the past two years passing more than a dozen ballot measures that were ultimately rejected by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who was re-elected last month.Republican leaders said they won’t resubmit those bills Only for Mr. Evers to veto again in 2023.

“I think it’s over,” Evers said of the state’s bloody battle over voting laws. “They may try to pass some laws to make voting more difficult, and they know I will reject them.”

And in Arizona, Republican Kari Lake has yet to concede defeat in the gubernatorial race, but incoming governor Katie Hobbs says her relationship with Republican Senate leaders is very strained. rice field. scheduled.

Mr Hobbs said he “hopes to find some common ground” on the voting issue, but said he wasn’t optimistic.

“These people are claiming fraud for nothing. These people rebelled against the Capitol. They’re the ones who broke the trust,” she said in New Orleans. We cannot indulge these people who have been misled by those they support as leaders, and these so-called leaders must be held accountable.”

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