War on “War on Voting” Heads to the Trenches

And speaking of the states, anyone interested in politics at all should read Michael Shear’s rundown in the New York Times about the Obama campaign’s plans for counteracting the effects of new voter ID laws and other elements of the GOP’s ongoing “war on voting.” It’s in theory a Plan B, since many of these laws are being challenged in the courts. But given the tendency of the courts to give states considerable leeway in this area, it’s a Plan B that we might as well expect to be executed.

Here’s a taste of what the Obama ops are dealing with in three battleground states:

In Wisconsin, where a new state law requires those registering voters to be deputized in whichever of the state’s 1,800 municipalities they are assigned to, the campaign sent a team of trainers armed with instructions for complying with the new regulations.

In Florida, the campaign’s voter registration aides traveled across the state to train volunteers on a new requirement that voter registration signatures be handed in to state officials within 48 hours after they are collected.

And in Ohio, Mr. Obama’s staff members have begun reaching out to let voters know about new laws that discourage precinct workers from telling voters where to go if they show up at the wrong precinct.

And these issues are just the tip of the iceberg, with restrictions on early voting opportunities, fights over the voting rights of ex-felons, funding shortages (real or contrived) for election administration all in play. That’s before, of course, we even get to the usual last-minute shenanigans–registration list “purges,” last-minute changes in polling places, voter disinformation and intimidation schemes–Republicans have routinely deployed in recent elections to keep down the vote, particularly in minority precincts.

We keep hearing that the Obama campaign’s ace-in-the-whole this year is its heavy investment in field infrastructure, especially as compared to a late-starting Romney campaign heavily reliant on Super-PAC funding mostly earmarked for attack ads. Looks like they will need every bit of it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.