Hillary Clinton laid out the boldest policy plan of her campaign so far — to expand and protect voting rights — and attacked a number of Republicans, by name, for their opposition to it. In a major speech at Texas Southern University on Thursday, Clinton unveiled her ambitious vision, based on a simple idea: Everyone should vote.
“Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting,” Clinton said. “What part of democracy are they afraid of?”
Many states controlled by Republican legislatures have passed restrictions on voting rights since 2010, and young and minority voters — who tend to vote for Democrats — have been disproportionately affected by these new laws. Now that courts have upheld the new regulations, this will be the first presidential election where millions of voters will face stringent new ID requirements, registration requirements, and drastically fewer opportunities to vote early.
Clinton called on Congress to pass legislation that revitalizes the Voting Rights Act, and to implement recommendations from a bipartisan presidential commission to make voting more accessible, recommendations that include expanding absentee and early voting, making registration easier, and reducing wait times.
She also voiced her support for creating a standard for early voting — advocating for an early-voting period of at least 20 days, with times that include evenings and weekends — as well as for automatic registration for all citizens when they turn 18.
Clinton singled out North and South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and New Jersey for their voting cuts. In Texas, a gun permit is an acceptable form of ID at the polls, but student IDs are not. And Hillary’s potential campaign rival Scott Walker has slashed weekend and evening voting hours in Wisconsin, and out-of-state students at Wisconsin universities now have to get Wisconsin ID cards in order to be eligible to vote there.
“We have a responsibility to say clearly and directly what’s really going on in our country — because what is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other,” Clinton said.
While universal registration for 18-year-olds is a bold proposal, Clinton didn’t specify how she would achieve it. There are different ways to make it happen, but she’ll have to win before any of her proposals stand a chance.
President Obama won both his elections thanks to heavy turnout from young voters, minority voters, and first-time voters from every demographic in the country. With so many hurdles in place for those same people to get to the polls next year, the 2016 election could end up being decided by a much older, whiter, and richer subset of the country.