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Four Ways to Expand the Electorate

by Brendan Walsh

When the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, only one Republican Senator voted against it. Sadly, this bipartisan effort is a thing of the past.

Over the past decade, Republicans have introduced more than 400 voter suppression bills, including harsh voter registration compliance deadlines, strict voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, and polling place reductions.

The 2020 Election saw a historic turnout in Arizona, with voters of color playing a crucial role in driving that turnout. Fueled by The Big Lie, far-right Legislators have been pushing voter suppression laws and doing everything in their power to make it harder for these voters to have their voices heard. Among these proposals, Prop 128 would have allowed Arizona’s politicians to overturn the results of a successful citizens’ ballot initiative, ignoring the will of the voters. Prop 309 would have required a date of birth and voter identification number for mail-in ballots, while also eliminating the two-document alternative to photo ID for in-person voting.

Home to 10% of the nation’s voter suppression bills and a deeply divided government, the swing state of Arizona will play a pivotal role in the 2024 and future elections. This is why progressive forces, both private and public, must do everything in our power to combat these voter suppression tactics. Below are four things we can do to ensure every Arizonian can vote.

One: Make voter registration automatic.

Arizona can enhance voting opportunities easily through our own Voter Registration Act. Successfully implemented in 23 U.S. states, Voter Registration Act laws automatically register their citizens once they turn 18 or get their Driver’s License through the Motor Vehicle Department. While the 1993 Motor Voter Act made voting and maintaining voter registrations easier, Arizona does not offer automatic voter registration, and voters manually add their political party preferences. However, the process is riddled with issues as much of the information is often mishandled by short-staffed personnel, causing too many voters to end up on the wrong list or no list at all. Universal Voter Registration laws have had a prominent effect on voter registration rates, increasing voter participation levels in some parts by an incredible 94%. Implementation in Arizona could be accomplished either through the State Legislature or the statewide initiative process.

Two: Improve existing Motor Voter Laws.

Arizona can enhance voting opportunities by investing in and improving the existing Motor Voter Laws. States like Arizona need to invest more resources in staff who will handle voter data correctly to avoid alarming rates of improper voter data mishandling. But voter data mishandling is not only common in Arizona. Before improving their voter registration law in 2018, states like Maryland failed to properly handle the data of over 120,000 voters over four years. In Arizona, where just over 10,000 voters helped decide one of the historic elections – a 0.03% vote margin – the stakes are even higher.

Three: Invest in County Recorders.

Arizona's County Recorder's offices can ensure that every eligible person in Arizona can register to vote if given proper resources. While each of Arizona's 15 County Recorder's offices provides some form of voter registration assistance, most are understaffed and need more resources to reach underrepresented people in their communities. With adequate funding from the State of Arizona, the County Recorder's office could prioritize outreach to urban and rural communities to ensure all eligible people are registered to vote. This process would ensure transparency and consistent training of voter registration canvassers across the Counties and help ease voters' concerns about giving out their personal information when registering.

Four: What you can do now.

While policy change favoring automatic voter registration and better voting rights protections are needed, in-person voter registration currently remains our best option. Supporting organizations specializing in voter registration – especially those focusing on youth and people of color – is an excellent way to fight voter suppression. For over a decade now, Worker Power has been fighting voter suppression and increasing the political participation of young people and voters of color to create a government that will improve the lives of working families in Arizona. Since 2012, Worker Power has enrolled over 100,000 voters into Arizona’s permanent vote-by-mail list, many of them people of color and youth voters. That work has significantly increased voter participation among underrepresented communities in federal, state, and local elections. Our voter registration efforts depend on donations from our community members. To register 20,000 new voters, primarily young voters and people of color by July 2024, Worker Power will need that support.

Our government and the democratic principles upon which the United States has been created will be stronger when more people can participate. We must defend these principles. Fighting voter suppression by registering new people to vote is the first step.


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