In a country where 131 million people voted in the 2008 presidential election, a few million more voters sprinkled across the states, just might make a difference. In a handful of swing states, voting rights groups have sued and won voting rights for hundreds of thousands of low-income people, two-thirds of them women, in the last few years.
The results are impressive. 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 people applying for state public assistance since August '08. 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 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, to 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 isn't rocket science. This April, 40 million Americans applied for food stamps. If even 10 percent of those people registered to vote – the nation’s voter rolls would get a millions-strong boost.
The numbers from from Missouri and Ohio dwarf the size of the largest Tea Party rallies and 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!