Here’s a very interesting development that suggests Dems are beginning to take the war over voting far more seriously than in the past — and are gearing up for a protracted struggle over voting access that could make a real difference in 2016.
A group of leading Democratic strategists is launching a new political action committee that will raise money for a very specific purpose: Getting Democratic secretaries of state who favor expanded voting elected in four states — Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.
Jeremy Bird, a national field director for Obama’s presidential campaign, tells me the effort will aim to raise in the “significant seven figures” to spend on just those four races (read more about the races right here). That could have a real impact, Bird says, because the average secretary of state candidate in such races spends an average of $500,000 total. The group’s board of directors has ties into the world of Obama and Clinton donors.
“The idea is that we need to flip the switch on this entire voting rights conversation, and go from defense on voter suppression, to offense on expanding access to voting,” Bird says of the effort, called iVote. “This isn’t a short term effort. We’ve got to be systematic. We’ve got to be dogged. We’ve got to be sure we’re out-organizing them.”
To put what this means in perspective, remember that during the height of the 2012 campaign, there was a legal battle over early voting in Ohio. The Obama campaign, which wanted early voting in part to get more African Americans to the polls, prevailed. But that was anything but assured. Would a loss have cost Dems Ohio? Probably not. The Obama campaign also prevailed in other legal battles over early voting. Would a loss in one or more of those have mattered? Probably not.
But those were short term victories, and Dems are increasingly recognizing that it’s time to ratchet up the intensity and electoral organizing around access to voting. A GOP super PAC is planning to spend millions in secretary of state races. “We’ve got to be on offense against the other side,” Bird says.
The battle over access to voting is already an issue that revs up the Dem base – and the promise of Dems going on offense over the issue could bring in more grassroots cash from across the country, for these four races for secretary of state and other efforts beyond that. With action occurring on other fronts — there’s a bill in Congress to patch up the hole SCOTUS blew in the Voting Rights Act, and an Obama panel just released a report recommending electoral reforms — access to voting will likely occupy a more central and heated role in the political conversation in the months ahead.