A nice catch by Ari Berman here: He notes that Obama directly took on the various voter suppression tactics we’ve been seeing around the nation during his appearance on Jay Leno yesterday. Here’s what Obama said:
“It’s a problem. Now the Justice Department handles all these cases, so I can’t weigh in on any particular state. Here’s one thing I know: that throughout our history, our country’s always been stronger when everybody’s had a voice. It took a long time to make sure the franchise expanded to everybody. But we should be thinking about ways to make it easier for folks to vote, not to make it harder for folks to vote.
“That’s why this early voting is really terrific. In Iowa, I think 25 percent of the people have already voted. In Ohio, folks are already voting. In a whole bunch of states — Florida, Colorado — people can already vote, and that’s especially important for people who don’t have as much flexibility on the job. If you’re a factory worker and you’ve got to punch a clock and maybe your shift is one where you’ve got to be there right on time, you’ve got to take a bus to get to work, it just makes it tougher...we want to encourage everybody, regardless of who you’re voting for, make sure to take advantage of it, and find out if you can exercise early voting in your state.”
As Berman notes, this issue didn’t come up in the presidential debates, which is annoyingly typical of how narrow they were, so it’s good to hear Obama take it on in a high profile setting.
Here’s how the Obama campaign team views the question of whether these tactics could impact the election’s outcome. They believe that it is a problem, but one that can be overcome. And they’ve mounted a concerted effort to do that — at the organizational level. Campaign organizers and volunteers include an additional set of steps designed to deal with the specific hurdles to voting in any given state. So organizers who are contacting voters tell them what they will need in the way of identification to vote (depending on their state’s laws); they ask voters whether they have that identification; and if they don’t, they tell the voters how to get that identification, and urge them to do so. The Obama team is heartened by the fact that many of the efforts to limit voting have fizzled this cycle, particularly in Ohio.
Vote suppression tactics are another reason the Obama campaign and Democrats are leaning so hard on early voting. The Democratic National Committee today released a new memo laying out what the public polls tell us about who is winning the early voting. The short version: The consensus of those polls is that Obama holds overwhelming leads among early voting in Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Obama team views this as a kind of insurance policy against voter suppression tactics.
And there’s another element to this that has gone underappreciated. This isn’t just about getting votes banked early. The more votes that are put away in advance, the more it frees up campaign resources to go out and do still more early-vote organizing and outreach to the remaining undecided voters. That’s why you hear Obama and all his surrogates, in literally every campaign setting, urging even the faithful to get out and vote right away, as Obama did on Leno last night.