Hillary Clinton is in Texas urging a nationwide in-person early voting period of 20 days or more in a speech, while blasting potential Republican rivals for the White House for backing laws that she says makes it more difficult for people to vote.
Clinton was using a speech in Houston today to say that several states – including Texas, Ohio and Wisconsin, whose current or former leaders are presidential hopefuls Rick Perry, John Kasich and Scott Walker – rewrote election laws to put onerous requirements on voters, especially the young, the poor, the elderly, minorities and working Americans. Some of those groups disproportionately cast their ballots for Democrats.
The former secretary of state, senator and first lady was outlining her plan in Texas while receiving an award named for the late Barbara Jordan, a former congresswoman and civil rights leader.
In a speech at historically black Texas Southern University, Clinton was urging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the law in 2013 and allowed some states to make significant changes to their election laws.
Clinton had previously criticized the Supreme Court decision after justices decided that some jurisdictions still need to seek approval from the Justice Department to change voting procedures, but no longer required the same formula to be used to decide which states are covered.
But Thursday marked Clinton’s first significant policy proposal about how to change voting procedures across the nation since becoming a presidential candidate in April. She has unveiled plans only on a handful of topics so far, but her campaign says the bulk will be released in the weeks and months following her first rally on June 13.
Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination, but in recent weeks the Democratic field has expanded to include Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland and Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
Thursday’s speech could help Clinton win over the more liberal wing of her party, some of whom are not as enthusiastic about her, as well as African-Americans voters who she had trouble winning over the first time she ran for president.
She planned to endorse recommendations made by President Barack Obama’s bipartisan commission on election reform, including having states update voter registration lists, increase online voter registration and expand training and recruitment of poll workers.
But the biggest change she was urging was to have at least 20 days of early voting, which would include opportunities to cast ballots on the weekend and evenings.
Early voting would reduce long lines and give more voters a chance to participate, especially those who have work or family obligations that make it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day, according to Clinton’s campaign. And early voting is more secure, reliable and affordable for states to implement than absentee voting, the campaign says.
About 20 million people voted early in the 2014 elections. But a third of states still have no early voting.
In many state capitals, Republicans have pushed changes to voting laws to prevent voter fraud.
In North Carolina, lawmakers eliminated registration during early voting and reducing early voting to 10 days in 2013. Nearly 95,000 people registered to vote during early voting in the 2012 general election and cast their ballots the same day, according to published reports.
In Texas, lawmakers implemented what Clinton calls a “restrictive law” in 2014 that a federal court had previously blocked for having “discriminatory purpose.” Among other provisions, the law allows a concealed weapon permit as valid ID but not a student photo ID.
In Wisconsin, lawmakers reduced early voting in 2011, limiting it to just one weekend. They eliminated early voting on weekends altogether in 2014.
Democrats are working to defeat some of the Republican-enacted restrictions in certain states. The effort is being led by Marc Elias, a leading Democratic lawyer who also represents Clinton.
In addition to the speech, Clinton is raising money in Texas at a series of fundraisers in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston.