U.S. Democrats launch push to expand voting access

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:41pm EST

Former President Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he joins U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (not pictured) for a campaign event in Louisville, Kentucky February 25, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/John Sommers II

Former President Bill Clinton shakes hands with the crowd as he joins U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (not pictured) for a campaign event in Louisville, Kentucky February 25, 2014 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/John Sommers II

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the help of former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party launched a national drive on Thursday to expand voting opportunities and fight back against what it calls restrictive voting laws.

The program will establish permanent procedures and staff in each state to help register and educate voters, and work with local officials to expand access to the polls in the November elections and beyond.

Voting laws have been the subject of partisan fights since 2011, when a wave of Republican-sponsored state laws began to impose stricter identification requirements on voters or restrict access, including by cutting back on early voting sites and hours.

Republican supporters say the laws, many of which have been blocked by the courts, are needed to prevent fraud. Democrats say they are designed to limit the ballots of minorities and low-income voters who tend to support Democrats.

"Today, there is no greater assault on our core values than the rampant efforts to restrict the right to vote," Clinton said in a video released by the party.

"It's not enough anymore just to be against these new voting restrictions," he said. "To form that more perfect union, we have to expand rights, not take them away."

Democratic National Committee officials said the program, announced at the start of their winter meeting, would vary by state depending on state laws and the local political climate. It will provide a network of voter advocates and legal help to protect voting access.

They declined to put a price tag on the effort, which comes as Democrats face a stiff challenge in November to hold their majority in the Senate and are considered long shots to regain control of the House of Representatives.

Voter turnout in midterm elections is smaller, and usually whiter and older, than during presidential years, with more of the Democratic base of minority and young voters staying home. President Barack Obama warned of the trend last week, saying Democratic voters did not find midterms "sexy" enough.

"When more people are involved, it's good for democracy - and yeah, it's good for Democrats," said Mo Elleithee, communications director for the DNC.

Republicans rejected the Democratic charges that the party was trying to restrict minority voting.

"This accusation by the Democrats is nothing more than a ploy to engage their base and mislead voters in an election where they are worried about turnout," said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (19)
Sensibility wrote:
If they were smart, Republicans would fully and excitedly support ways to increase voter turnout, because a large, informed base of voters is the best defense against the kind of propaganda the Democrats use to stay in power. Voter ID is important, but voter responsibility is even more so.

Feb 27, 2014 7:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
jvonrock wrote:
can bill elaborate more on who, where and why.

Feb 27, 2014 7:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
carnivalchaos wrote:
Expanding voter access used to always be part of America’s national agenda, that is until the Republicans began tampering with our democracy and came up with schemes to suppress Democratic voter turnout with the goal of helping Republicans win elections. We need to start putting these anti-American conservatives in their place and get back to being the progressive country we used to be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o32tF-S6K60&list=PLiLsYC8FXDA1lF9Q-CAoYmdnxYyPTH2Xa

Feb 27, 2014 8:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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