Voter Registration Down, No Duh

ACORN Community Organizing Voting Rights

3187824597_d1dbee2916_oNew Orleans The popular Politico blog by Ben Smith on October 15th drew the obvious conclusion last week about the report that voter registration numbers are significantly down, especially in lower income districts, that allowing the right to take ACORN out of the equation and chilling virtually all large scale registration efforts will be a huge favor in the midterm elections.

Missing ACORN

The Washington Independent’s Jesse Zwick reports:

After more than a decade of success expanding voter rolls, voting rights advocates are noting a disturbing trend in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Dramatically fewer groups are engaged in registering voters during the current election cycle than in previous midterm elections, and fewer voters, especially in poorer areas that are traditionally underrepresented and therefore the usual target of voter registration drives, are registering to vote as a result.

Registration patterns vary significantly from state to state, but 26.7 percent fewer new voters have registered in

Florida this year than in 2006, along with 21.4 percent fewer in Maryland and 16.9 percent fewer in Tennessee, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy and law institute at New York University. And while there’s no single cause for the decline, experts point out that many independent organizations are withering under a combination of public attacks by conservative activists alleging voter fraud and new state laws making it difficult for such groups to operate.

The biggest piece of this seems to be ACORN’s absence…

What’s the surprise?  None really, but the impact is going to have a longer shadow.  Studies have long established that the percentage of “first time” voters who actually vote is huge, so the GOTV drop-off will be significant as well.  Of course, ACORN will not be engaged in GOTV either among low-and-moderate income voters, so that’s a double-whammy.

This is a huge victory for the right wing and the elites, regardless of party affiliation, and culminates a successful campaign dating a decade in which the Republican Party and its operatives targeted ACORN registration efforts in the election run-ups in order to try and dampen turnout with scores of charges and filings which would all disappear within weeks and months following the election.  The lack of both understanding and support from the any part of the community that believes in a democracy of full participation of the poor and in fact every citizen, not surprisingly will also mean that fewer resources will move in this direction and fewer organizations will take the huge risks of standing out alone and enduring the brickbats of opposition.

Our democracy may have been permanently diminished which is even sadder than the immediate tactical advantages the right will have in coming weeks.