The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.
Voter rolls typically shrink in non-presidential election years, but this is the first time in nearly four decades that the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly.
Now, there is some good news: Latino registration is up big in a couple of key states like Florida and New Mexico. The bad news is down big everywhere else, enough to drop registration from 2008 among minorities by 5% or more nationally. And you can place the blame squarely on Republicans at the state level disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of low-income voters.
But those efforts, say campaign officials, have been complicated by laws approved by state legislatures since 2008, including some that place additional requirements on groups that register voters.
“It is disheartening to see voting becoming harder in states across the country,” said Katie Hogan, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. She said the campaign is “doing the challenging work of registering voters, even when Republican legislation is trying to make it more difficult.”
A dozen state legislatures passed rules last year requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs when they arrive at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, although in four states the laws were vetoed by Democratic governors.
Florida and Ohio will cut nearly in half the number of days for early voting, and Florida lawmakers reversed rules that had made it easier for former felons to vote.
Florida also passed new rules governing groups that register voters, requiring them to turn in completed voter registration forms within 48 hours or risk fines. Groups previously had 10 days to file the forms. As a result, the League of Women Voters, the Boy Scouts and several other organizations that register voters halted efforts in Florida.
Opponents of the laws say Republican legislatures have attempted to tamp down turnout among minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.
If you're still asking yourself why Republicans are so keen on making it more difficult to vote, this is exactly why. Lower turnout favors the Republican party, period. Now Republicans are hoping that reducing the number of voters pays off in national races and in state ones as well. Republicans now control at least one branch of government in 39 of 50 states. They want it all.