Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spatial equality new "coin of the realm" in state voter laws

In "New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States," Steven Yaccino and Lizette Alvarez report from Cincinnati, Ohio, on that state's recent efforts to regulate voting, presumably to deter those who vote Democratic.  In all, nine states, including North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio have passed laws since the beginning of 2013.  Many are voter ID laws, which may require a passport to birth certificate to register as a voter.  I have written about the spatial burdens associated with these here.  Now, however, Republicans have a new strategy:
Republicans in these states shifted their strategy away from concerns over fraud, which have proved largely unfounded, to a new rationale that suggests fairness: uniformity. 
Republican lawmakers and election officials argue that to avoid voter confusion and litigation urban and rural counties should follow the same rules. 
In Ohio, the hodgepodge of rules raised concerns in both parties. Some urban counties had large enough budgets to send out absentee ballot applications and some smaller rural ones did not, election board directors said. Early voting hours also varied.
So the result is a sort of "race to the bottom," or "lowest common denominator" standard.  If a practice is all a rural county can afford, then no county is permitted to do better or make voting easier.

It is ironic that the challenges and limits rural voters face should be held up as the new and appropriate norm when, regarding most rights or services, rural residents are told "tough luck" when their access falls short of that enjoyed by their urban counterparts.  Disingenuous on the part of the GOP, if you ask me.  

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