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Why does GOP fight early voting?

By Donna Brazile
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Activists in Washington mark the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to alter the Voting Rights Act.
Activists in Washington mark the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to alter the Voting Rights Act.
  • Supreme Court ruled Ohio could restrict early voting; other GOP states have also done it
  • Donna Brazile: Court ruling also ends convenient hours that help working people vote
  • Brazile: More and more people vote early, so GOP efforts to discourage it has big impact
  • Brazile: Democracy relies on participation; we've never done better by excluding folks

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- As a longtime political operative, I know firsthand how a vote here or a vote there can make a huge difference in a close election. And as Vice President Al Gore's former campaign manager, I understand the impact U.S. Supreme Court decisions can have on electoral outcomes.

These two reasons are why I'm outraged by what's going on in Ohio.

This week, the Supreme Court, on the eve of early voting, ruled that efforts by Ohio Republicans to restrict early voting days were acceptable. This gets rid of what's called the Golden Week in Ohio -- the period when voters can register and cast their ballot at the same time.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

It ended convenient voting hours, when Ohioans could vote after a long day at work -- as late as 9 p.m. It also ended voting on one of the two Sundays before Election Day when many folks head to their polling place after church. These have been hallmarks of the Ohio voting system, but the Supreme Court and Republicans have yet again changed the rules in the middle of the game -- all to create barriers between people and the ballot box.

And unfortunately it's not just Ohio where Republicans have doggedly tried to restrict or cut early voting days or hours. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP have reduced and limited the early voting period, including weekend voting. In North Carolina, the Republican governor and legislature took away a week of early voting. And in Georgia, a GOP legislator lamented a county's move to expand early voting, saying he would "prefer more educated voters" over black early voters.

Think this doesn't have any real impact? Think again. In 2012, a third of voters cast a ballot before Election Day, in person or by mail -- more than double the rate during the 2000 election. All told, more than 18 million voters cast an early in-person ballot when President Obama was re-elected.

Voting shouldn't be a challenge. It should be as easy and accessible as possible. We shouldn't require forms of ID that folks don't have, we shouldn't restrict days or hours that allow working people a chance to both do their job and exercise their democratic right, and we damn well shouldn't be throwing up new obstacles midstream.

When obstacles are thrown up, we should have protections for voters. That's why I was so frustrated when the Supreme Court last summer gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder.

The Supreme Court ruled that there's no need for national oversight when localities and states with a history of racially discriminatory voting laws make voting rule changes. I'm not alone with my frustration. A recent poll from Lake Research and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found that nationally, 69% of the American public favors restoring the VRA, with only 10% opposing.

Voters of both parties, all races, and every region across the country favor a congressional proposal to restore the Voting Rights Act. I'm hopeful that Republicans and Democrats will, in the lame duck session after the 2014 elections or in the beginning of the next session of Congress, hammer out legislation that restores oversight and protects voters.

As Democrats, we believe in giving every eligible citizen the opportunity to vote -- whether it's early because they can't take off work on Election Day or absentee because they might have plans to be out of town. And we believe this for two reasons. First, when more people vote, Democrats win. That's because more Americans agree with us on the big issues and the big questions -- like who's got my back? But second, it's because our democracy is better when more people have skin in the game. Our democracy relies on participation and we've never done better by excluding folks.

If there's one thing we can count on, it's that the GOP is going to continue to come up with last minute schemes to make it more complicated, more confusing, or just plain more difficult for honest, hardworking citizens to vote on Election Day or before. It's up to us to stop them.

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