Blue states can also make it hard to vote — including Biden’s adopted home of Delaware

Blue states can also make it hard to vote — including Biden’s adopted home of Delaware

A right-wing talking point that some Republicans are using in support of Georgia's new voter suppression law, the so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021, is that because voting can be difficult in some blue states, Democrats are in no position to criticize the law. But that talking point doesn't make the Georgia law any less odious — it simply means that Democrats have some work to do in their own backyards when it comes to encouraging voter turnout. And as journalist Russell Berman explains in an article published by The Atlantic on January 15, voting can, in fact, be challenging in some blue states —including President Joe Biden's adopted home of Delaware.

"If President Joe Biden wants to vote by mail next year in Delaware," Berman explains, "he'll have to provide a valid reason for why he can't make the two-hour drive from the White House back to his polling place in Wilmington. Luckily for him, Biden's line of work allows him to cast an absentee ballot: Being president counts as 'public service' under state law. Most Delaware residents, however, won't have such a convenient excuse. Few states have more limited voting options than Delaware, a Democratic bastion that allowed little mail balloting before the pandemic hit."

Berman goes on to cite some other examples of northeastern blue states where voting can be a challenge.

"Connecticut has no early voting at all," Berman observes, "and New York's onerous rules force voters to change their registration months in advance if they want to participate in a party primary. In Rhode Island, Democrats enacted a decade ago the kind of photo-ID law that the party has labeled 'racist' when drafted by Republicans; the state also requires voters to get the signatures of not one but two witnesses when casting an absentee ballot. Only Alabama and North Carolina are similarly strict."

To further illustrate Berman's point, Philadelphia — an overwhelmingly Democratic northeastern city — made absentee voting a challenge before the COVID-19 pandemic. Philadelphians who wanted an absentee ballot had to request an application, fill out the application, state their reason for not voting in person — and when the application was approved, they would receive an absentee ballot in the mail. In Philly, a city that's about 41% African-American and hasn't had a Republican mayor since the early 1950s, absentee voting was, in the past, regarded as mainly a White Republican suburban activity — and the Philadelphia Election Board considered in-person voting preferable.

Berman notes, "The restrictions across the Northeast are relics of the urban Democratic machines, which preferred to mobilize their voters precinct by precinct on Election Day rather than give reformers a lengthier window to rally opposition. Democrats who have won election after election in states such as New York, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island have had little incentive to change the rules that helped them win."

But again, none of this makes Georgia's so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021 any better. It does, however, mean that Democrats have some work to do in their own states when it comes to making voting more convenient.

"Democrats in charge of blue states are now racing to expand access in a way that matches the party's rhetoric nationwide," Berman observes. "In some cases, they're trying to make permanent the temporary changes to voting laws that were put in place because of the pandemic. Delaware, for example, removed the mandate that voters cite a reason for casting an absentee ballot."

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