Let America Vote, a progressive advocacy group that says it combats voter suppression laws, will expand its focus on key races in five states, the group announced Thursday.
The Democratic-leaning nonprofit is focusing on a mix of gubernatorial, legislative and secretary of state races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada. Austin Laufersweiler, a spokesman for the group, said it had chosen to focus on those races because it saw them as “voting rights hotbeds.”
The expansion signals Democrats sustained interest in focusing on voting rights as a potent political issue as courts have continued to strike down Republican restrictions on voting and as President Donald Trump makes unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud.
“Politicians around the country will think twice before trying to change the mechanics of our elections for political gain.”
“I started Let America Vote to create political consequences for politicians who try to roll back voting rights, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with our five-state field operation in 2018,” former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), the group’s president, said in a statement.
“We’re opening these offices as a direct response to efforts by politicians to make voting harder and their re-election campaigns easier,” he added. “Politicians in each of the five states will have to answer for their actions on election day, and politicians around the country will think twice before trying to change the mechanics of our elections for political gain.”
A handful of those five states have passed new voting restrictions this year. In May, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), now Trump’s ambassador to China, signed a new voter ID law, even though Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said voter fraud was not a widespread problem. In New Hampshire, lawmakers passed a law requiring people to show proof they intended to stay in the state even though election officials said they had no evidence people were coming in from other states to illegally vote.
In Georgia, a federal judge had to force the state to extend the voter registration deadline ahead of a special election runoff in June, a decision that made nearly 10,000 more voters eligible to cast a ballot in the contest, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. The state is also facing lawsuits over its process for removing voters from the rolls, which critics say violates federal law.
Laufersweiler said the group would focus on Nevada because Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed a measure that would make voter registration automatic (it will be on a statewide ballot in 2018). Tennessee, Laufersweiler said, has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country.
Launched earlier this year, Let America Vote already has field offices in Virginia and the group plans to open a field office in one city in each of the five states. The group said it had knocked on 130,000 doors in Virginia to support the gubernatorial campaign of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D).