The fierce partisan battle over voting rights has both sides planning to pour massive amounts of money and resources into a handful of key 2014 campaigns for secretary of state.
The new-found attention for these once-obscure races is driven by an awareness on both sides that a state’s top election official can play a critical role in expanding or restricting the right to vote—meaning control of secretary of state offices in swing states could be crucial in the 2016 presidential contest.
On Thursday, a group of high-level Democratic strategists launched iVote, a political action committee that will back Democratic secretary of state candidates in four pivotal 2016 states: Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada. All four Democratic candidates are strong advocates of expanding access to the ballot, and all are likely to face Republicans who are looking to make it harder to vote. The initiative is part of a broader move by Democrats and voting-rights advocates to push back against the wave of restrictive voting laws advanced by Republicans in recent years.
Secretaries of state are charged with administering most aspects of their state’s elections, giving them responsibility for everything from maintaining voter rolls to sending out absentee ballots to counting votes.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) commends the Members of Congress who today, in a strong bipartisan showing, introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014.
The introduction of this bill—just seven months after the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder—demonstrates Congress’ recognition of the urgent need to ensure the protection of the right to vote.
“Although not perfect, this bill is an important first step,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “There is much more work for Congress, civil rights groups, and communities to do. Our common aim is to ensure that all Americans can participate equally in the political process. The bill released today provides an excellent starting point for public engagement in this process. It’s imperative that we all work together to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote, particularly on account of their race or language minority status. We applaud the courageous, bipartisan effort to press through a voting rights bill, despite the many other urgent matters facing our Congress.”
LDF is committed to ensuring that the final legislation protects all Americans’ right to vote. “We will work with Congress, community groups, and our colleagues in the civil rights community over the next weeks and months to strengthen this bill to ensure that it protects all voters against discrimination,” said Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington office.
When Rosanell Eaton was 21 years old and living in segregated North Carolina, she became one of the first African Americans in her county registered to vote, after successfully completing a literacy test that required her to recite the preamble to the Constitution. But now, at 92 years old, she faces new obstacles under the voter suppression law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) Monday. For one thing, she may not qualify for the voter ID card required under the new law, because the name on her birth certificate is different from the name on her driver’s license and voter registration card. Reconciling this difference will be a costly and time-consuming administrative endeavor. For another, she has participated in early voting since it was instituted in the state. Now, it’s been cut back a week.
She is one of several individuals who, along with civil rights groups, are already suing the state for what may be the most restrictive voting law in the nation. Other restrictive new provisions in the law include the elimination of same-day registration and early registration for high schoolers in advance of their 18th birthday, and prohibiting certain kinds of voter registration drives that tend to register low-income and minority voters.