For get-out-the vote efforts, it seems like it’s going to be a race against the clock.
Eight states have already passed legislations restricting community-based voter registration drives and critics claim the timing is detrimental for the Latino vote in the November election.
In Texas and Florida, legislation restricted third party organizations to register voters. In addition, New Mexico and Colorado stand out as states with the most restrictive laws. Although the federal court recently put a hold on these restrictions in two states, the loss of time is no less damaging.
One of the requirements forced a 48-hour rule on volunteers in Florida to turn in voter registration forms or face a series of fines that could amount to $5,000 dollars. It also made it more cumbersome for coordinators to verify whether the forms were correct.
The legislation went into effect in 2011, while the court ruled to block the provision for Florida in May of this year.
Prior to the court decision, several prominent groups such as Rock the Vote, National Council of La Raza, and League of Women Voters of Florida said that they weren’t able to register voters anymore in that state because this law had essentially “put them out of business.”
“It made it too risky to their reputation, to their budget, to continue engaging voters and these are volunteers – these are folks who literally exist to get people more involved in elections,” said Lee Rowland, who serves as a counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.
The restrictions fall most heavily on the shoulders of Black and Hispanic voters. Studies show that people of color including Latinos are twice as likely to vote through community-based efforts than white voters.
The 48-hour rule in Florida has also exacerbated resources from some organizations including NCLR, whose campaign in South Florida is nearing an end this month.
For about six months they collected close to 27,000 voter registrations with a staff of 21 paid counselors. They were aiming to register 35,000 eligible voters, but there were insufficient volunteers.
“There’s no doubt that the impact is very real. It’s in the thousands or millions of people who benefit from these drives,” said Rowland.
For the past few years, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) has been fighting voter restriction laws in Arizona and Texas that they claim limits the number of volunteers able to participate in registration drives.
Restrictions on how to handle voter applications and on who can register voters in Texas were enacted in 2011. Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at MALDEF, counters that while this has always been the case, Texas shifted the rules to make volunteers go through loopholes including taking a class to get deputized by the county.
To put it into context she gave an example, “I have a son in High school. He would like to go up with voter registration forms to his class and to his school and go up to some of the seniors and say—take this fill it out and I’ll put in the mail for you,” she said. “That can’t be done. You should be able to do that as long as people are filling out registration forms.”
In addition, state officials forbid photocopies of the voter applications before sending them in. Perales said this impeded having volunteers following up to make sure the person would vote. The court blocked the provision in Texas earlier this month.
The same occurred in Arizona. The state enacted Proposition 200 requiring voters to provide a document that proved they were U.S. citizens at the place of voting. Critics countered it placed a burden on travel and called it “anti-immigrant.”
Following implementation of Proposition 200 between 2005 and 2007, Arizona officials rejected over 31,000 applications for voter registration because the applicants failed to satisfy the additional paperwork requirements of the new law. Voter registration in community-based voter drives plummeted 44 percent.
That means that doubling up on hours considering the next two months will be the most crucial in gaining the projected 10 to 12.2 million Latino votes in November is going to be an uphill battle for many on-the-ground coordinators.
Yet, Latino organizations such as the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) all indicated their estimate on the number of Latino registered voters remains the same.
In key states such as Florida, Colorado and Arizona, the registration deadline is October 9. Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC, said they’re sprucing up efforts in 22 states registering voters.
All together in partnership with three organizations, LULAC, LCLAA and Latinos for Democracy are aiming to register 50,000 voters. So far, they’ve registered 30,000 people.
Mi Familia Vota is closing in on registering 50,000 voters in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Texas, California and Colorado. The organization has already amassed two to three hundred volunteers in September for the state of Arizona.
For the last three months since the provision on voting registration was overruled in Florida including the 48-hour rule, the League of Women Voters has once again kick started their campaign to register and update the voter registrations in an attempt to get to hundreds of thousands of persons before the deadline.
Yet, president Deirdre Macnab admits while they’re high on enthusiasm they’re way behind on registration.
“We’re in the heat of the summer with a very short time period and that’s our biggest hurdle—there’s so much ground you can cover when your time has been cut so dramatically,” said Macnab. “We’re just working against the clock.”
Since 2011 at least 180 restrictive bills were introduced in 41 states, according to a report released by the Brennan Center for Justice. Texas is waiting on the decision by a federal circuit court in Washington D.C. to decide on a Voter ID law that is considered one of the strictest in the nation. The decision could come as early as this week.
Early voting: Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting.
Proof of citizenship: Laws passed in Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee.
Photo ID: Bills were signed into law in eight states—Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—and passed by referendum in Mississippi, while 34 states introduced legislation that would require a photo identification to vote.
Voter registration: Florida, Illinois and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives, and Florida and Wisconsin passed laws making it more difficult for people who move to stay registered and vote.
At least 16 states introduced bills to end highly popular Election Day and same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities.