Will progressives prioritize election reform, asks Rewire

Posted on January 9, 2019

Congressional Democrats Came out Swinging on Voting Rights. Will State-Level Democrats Follow?

It was no coincidence: Republicans, after dominating state legislative and gubernatorial races in the 2010 midterms, made sure to immediately pass a range of voting restrictions. Making it tougher to vote took precedence over busting labor unions, slashing taxes for the rich, and ramming through a raft of laws eroding access to abortion care.

“That’s what conservatives do—they satisfy the right-wing base as quickly as possible,” said Bernie Horn, senior director for policy and communications at the Public Leadership Institute, a nonpartisan policy center based in Washington, D.C. “The whole idea behind what conservatives do is to suppress the vote to win the next election.”

And it worked. State-level GOP lawmakers in the 2012 general election and 2014 midterm elections maintained their hold on power in many states that previously had Democratic majorities or split legislatures, offering Republicans almost a decade to pass disastrous economic austerity measures and legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights and abortion access.


Those who track state legislative trends said they expect new Democratic majorities to prioritize voting rights’ expansion, which would likely help the party’s electoral chances in 2020, just as restricting voter access aided Republicans after the 2010 election.

“It’s good politics to just move and move quickly,” Horn told Rewire.News. “There’s no reason to delay and there’s every reason to do it sooner so state elections officials have time to prepare for 2020.” Horn said waiting until 2020 to pass voting rights laws would be “impractical.”