After Scraping by in November, Democrats Zero in on Voting Rights as Key Issue

AP Photo/Matthew Brown

After a better-than-expected November midterm for the Democratic Party, key leaders and strategists are beginning to lay out their path forward. They are looking at what worked and what didn’t, seeing how Republicans screwed up, and figuring out the line of attack going forward.


One of the things that helped was the influence of Donald Trump in 2022. Key swing states and districts are where Trump’s candidates struggled because it was the moderate and independent voters who decided more of the same was better than people focused on a past election. Likewise, they saw that they had no real defense against issues like crime and immigration, and they suffered on those fronts.

One of the issues Democrats have been focusing on since 2020, however, is the issue of voting rights. They have been trying to revamp the American voting system in response to Republican states passing tough election security laws.

Of course, it should be noted that Democrats’ ideas are so radical even progressive nations around the world question what is up with American elections. No other developed country takes a week or more to determine who won an election that only covers 750,000 voters. Despite that, the Democrats look at things like ranked choice voting and extending early and absentee voting, all of which overcomplicate the process and force it to take much longer than need be.

According to the New York Times, these items are at the top of the list of issues some Democrats are looking at tackling going forward.

For the last two years, Democrats in battleground states have played defense against Republican efforts to curtail voting access and amplify doubts about the legitimacy of the nation’s elections.

Now it is Democrats, who retained all but one of the governor’s offices they hold and won control of state legislatures in Michigan and Minnesota, who are ready to go on offense in 2023. They are putting forward a long list of proposals that include creating automatic voter registration systems, preregistering teenagers to vote before they turn 18, returning the franchise to felons released from prison and criminalizing election misinformation.

Since 2020, Republicans inspired by former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies sought to make voting more difficult for anyone not casting a ballot in person on Election Day. But in the midterm elections, voters across the country rejected the most prominent Republican candidates who embraced false claims about American elections and promised to bend the rules to their party’s advantage.


It seems that automatic voter registration, which the Times describes as “a system that adds anyone whose information is on file with a government agency — such as a department of motor vehicles or a social services bureau — to the voter rolls unless they opt out,” is the most popular agenda item for Democratic leaders in various states right now. Ostensibly, this is about increasing turnout, as some of those quoted in the piece discuss.

However, “voting rights” has long been a keyword for Democrats wanting to reach out to minority groups (particularly black voters), which is also a major concern for Democrats who have long relied on these groups, but watched in horror in the last few cycles as the GOP has started to get more and more of their support. They still enjoy a majority of votes from these groups, but smaller ones than previously.

The Democrats are responding to several efforts by Republicans to tighten voting security with measures Democrats deem racist and too restrictive. At one point, during the height of the COVID pandemic, the Texas legislature’s entire Democratic caucus fled the state to block passage of voting security measures.

Texas Democrats advocating voting rights
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

There have been several initiatives – some rife with grift – that have tried to make it a bigger issue in the minds of voters, but they have largely been unsuccessful.


So the Democrats want to enact policies that are wholly unrelated to “voting rights” – like automatic registration and mail-in voting – and say they’ve strengthened “voting rights” when all they’ve done is added unnecessary features to a voting system that works just fine.

Yes, there are instances of voter suppression and there are instances of voting fraud, but neither is widespread enough to be a major concern on the outcome of an election. But the problem isn’t too much or too little access to voting. The problem is motivation, and looking at the state of American politics, is it really a wonder that not everyone wants to go vote?

For better or worse, though, more people seem to be showing up to vote overall. Georgia, for example, saw record turnout this cycle. In my state, Louisiana, Republicans cast more early votes than Democrats for the first time in the state’s history. There are signs that people are getting more involved.

But the Democrats want “voting rights” to be a major talking point going forward. I am just not sure they have the substantive evidence to convince Americans it’s as big an issue as it is. What’s more, inflation may be easing bit by bit, but prices are still sky-high, there are energy crises all over the country, and the crime problem is still at the top of everyone’s minds. It’s hard to say that an electoral issue like this is going to be more pressing on voters than those economic issues.



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