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Monday, December 5, 2016

Chris Christie appeared before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Tuesday, and emphasized his eagerness to keep Republican governors in power before the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he stressed the importance of letting Republicans control voting regulations.

“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?” Christie rhetorically asked.

In the past four years, Republicans have waged a highly partisan battle over voting rights. The Brennan Center for Justice tracks how conservative politicians began “passing laws and executive actions that would make it harder for many citizens to vote.” This trend began after the 2010 midterm elections brought new state legislative majorities, which “pushed a wave of laws cracking down on voting,” according to Wendy R. Weiser, the center’s director.

As the map below illustrates, a number of states moved forward with controversial voting changes in 2013, after the Supreme Court invalidated section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This effectively made it possible for nine states, mostly in the South, to adjust their election laws without prior federal approval.

The map shows the 21 states which will have new voting restrictions in place for November’s elections. Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin — the governors of which Christie specifically name-checked — are among the states with restrictive new laws.

Map from the Brennan Center for Justice
Map: Brennan Center for Justice

An October report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that voter identification laws, one of the most common restrictions, affected people aged 18 to 23 more than those from 44 to 53. The drop in voter turnout was also more pronounced among blacks than other ethnicities, and was greater among newly registered voters than those registered at least 20 years. Each of these constituencies is disproportionately likely to support Democratic candidates.

Along with stricter voter identification requirements, Governor Christie is also in favor of restricting early voting.

As Christie was initiating his own re-election bid last May, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed in-person early voting in New Jersey during the two weeks before elections. Christie claimed that the costs incurred would have been too great.

He has also gone on the record to vehemently oppose same-day registration for voting. In an August visit to Illinois, Christie referred to same-day voting as part of Democrats’ attempts to use “every trick in the book” to help their candidates win.

In his speech on Tuesday, Christie stressed that the party affiliation of governors will be especially significant for the 2016 presidential race.

“If you don’t really care what happens in these states, you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016,” he said.

Christie points to the three gubernatorial candidates of Crist, Burke, and FitzGerald as cautionary tales of what will happen if Democrats take over the statehouses in question. All three of these candidates have campaigned on the importance of protecting voting rights.

AFP Photo/Eric Thayer

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