Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress today released a new report titled “Strengthening Our Democracy by Expanding Voting Rights,” which outlines the different ways state legislatures can expand access to voting rights for their citizens. In recent years conservative legislatures across the country have engaged in a systematic attempt to suppress voter turnout by pushing legislation to address the largely fictitious issue of “voter fraud.” Their efforts have included bills to make it harder to register new voters, strict requirements of photo identification in order to vote, shortened early voting, and the elimination of same-day voter registration, all of which have disproportionally disenfranchised minorities, young people, members of the military, and elderly voters.
In the past election cycle, conservative legislatures in more than a dozen states—including Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas—passed legislation making it more difficult for voters to vote, forcing voting-rights advocates to play defense and fight back to try to block or modify the worst laws that were enacted. After the progressive victories in state legislatures like Oregon, Maine, and Colorado, voting-rights advocates have an opportunity to increase voter participation instead of defend voters against laws that disenfranchise them. This report outlines the different ways that voting-rights activists can implement policies to ensure that every American can exercise his or her right to vote.
The report proposes policy solutions, 11 pieces of legislation that lawmakers can enact to strengthen voting rights in their state. A number of these policies would make registering to vote more accessible, including allowing online voter registration, Election Day registration, and requiring public schools to help register voters. Others would make it simpler for citizens to cast a ballot, such as expanding early voting, permitting citizens to vote at any polling location, and allowing no-excuse absentee voting. States can also discourage those trying to suppress the vote by outlawing voter caging, strengthening penalties for knowingly deceiving voters, and reforming the voter-challenge process. Finally, legislators can pass other pro-voting policies, such as restoring voting rights to ex-felons and enacting constitutional language affirming an equal right to vote.
“Strengthening Our Democracy by Expanding Voting Rights” outlines good government, nonpartisan solutions to turn the tide toward making voting fair, free, and accessible for all. If 2011 and 2012 were immortalized as the years when Jim Crow-style voter-suppression tactics re-emerged, progressives now have an opportunity to make 2013 the most important year for voting rights since the 1960s.