Fight Tea Party Voters With Fresh Voters

Candidates are in their districts, making nice to likely mid-term
voters. They're a precious bunch, more scarce than general election
voters, and typically more polarized in their views. What if there were
more of them and more low-income people, particularly women, in the mix?

In a country where 131 million people voted in the 2008 presidential
election, a few million more voters from under-represented groups
sprinkled, state after state, by the tens or hundreds of thousands, just
might make a difference. Securing their voting rights is a smart,
effective way to find out.

In a handful of swing states where voting rights groups have sued and
won in recent years, the result is impressive: hundreds of thousands of
low-income people, two-thirds women, registering since 2008.

In Missouri, where John McCain beat Barack Obama by less than 4,000
votes, nearly a quarter-million voter registration applications have
been filed by Missourians while applying for state public assistance
benefits since August 2008. In Ohio, where George W. Bush beat John
Kerry by nearly 119,000 votes in 2004, low-income Ohioans filed 100,000
voter applications in just the first six months of 2010.

Project Vote, Demos, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,
and the local civil rights groups who sued these states and won
(forcing turnarounds at state public assistance agencies) have been
waging a lonely fight to implement the National Voter Registration Act.
The 1993 law requires a range of state agencies, not just motor
vehicles, offer voter registration services.

That fight became a little less lonely in June, when, for the first
time, the Justice Department announced it would start enforcing the
NVRA's voter registration mandate. This April, 40 million Americans
applied for Food Stamps. If 10 percent of those people registered to
vote - a smaller percentage than seen at Missouri public assistance
agencies after settling its NVRA suit - the nation's voter rolls would
grow by several million.

The numbers from Missouri and Ohio dwarf the size of the largest tea
party rallies. Already, right-wingers fear these voters and NVRA
compliance, commenting on websites that poor people should not vote for
any number of ugly reasons. Now it's up to other candidates to pay
attention to voters who've until now been overlooked. Instead of
obsessing about the tea partiers -- give those newest voters some good
reason to use that vote!

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