Voting Rights Legal Counter-Attack Underway

At the New York Times today, Maggie Haberman and Chozick have an important article on a legal campaign being undertaken by “Democrats allied with Hillary Rodham Clinton” to challenge a welter of voting restrictions enacted by Republican legislatures around the country. To make a relatively long story short, the idea is twofold: to get enough litigation underway so that friendly judges can perhaps intervene to suspend or modify some of these restrictions during the 2016 election cycle, and to identify HRC (who is expected to speak on this subject at Texas Southern University tomorrow) with an issue of particular concern to the minority voters she needs to hang onto in order to replicate the “Obama Coalition” in the general election.

This makes good sense all around. But I’d call your attention to two items in the Times piece that are grounds for some pessimism.

First, it’s not clear the lawsuits are going to have an especially good success rate:

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, called the Democratic lawsuits “long shots,” saying that so-called voter protection lawsuits had often failed in the courts. “In terms of success, some of these things are a stretch,” he said.

And second is this note about why minimizing voting restrictions might especially matter in 2016:

Unlike Mr. Obama, who could rely on a much wealthier Democratic National Committee to pursue voter registration for several years leading up to his re-election campaign, the party’s standard-bearer this time will have no such backup: The national committee has struggled financially of late and has largely outsourced its registration efforts to nonprofit groups.

That means Mrs. Clinton, if she is nominated, may have to compensate for underwhelming efforts to register voters by maximizing the ability of existing Democratic voters to cast their ballots.

If you happen to be sitting on a bankroll you plan to spend during the 2016 cycle, you might want to invest some of it in those nonprofit voter registration drives instead of pouring it all down the black hole of general election campaign ads.

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.