Also, if there is truth behind Republican support to make voting more restrictive for people in general, how long ago might this party have started advocating legislation with more restrictions?


Listening to the video on this post, there are different Republican and Democrat views on voting access.

It seems to be portrayed that...

  1. Democrats want more people to have access to their voting rights by fewer disqualifying restrictions.

  2. Republicans want fewer people to have access to their voting rights by more disqualifying restrictions.

I found the end of the audio most interesting where Amy Coney Barrett asked the RNC attorney about the interest to the RNC in keeping the out-of-precinct voter ballot disqualification rule in place in Arizona.

The RNC attorney's response was "Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game".

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    The title question is different from the one asked in the body. I think both are pretty interesting; could you maybe reconcile them here and ask the other as a new question?
    – Dan Scally
    Mar 3, 2021 at 9:04
  • 2
    I had to delete a lot of comments on this answer because they were attempts to answer the question, not to suggest how it could be improved. If you would like to answer the question, please write a real answer.
    – Philipp
    Mar 4, 2021 at 11:36

3 Answers 3


Speaking nationally, Democrats currently have a 6%-7% advantage over Republicans in terms of voter representation. In fact, Democrats have a lead among every demographic group except white males without a college education. However, Democratic voters tend to be clustered in urban and suburban areas, which attenuates their voting power somewhat and leaves them vulnerable to manipulations like gerrymandering. Further, they have lower SES (socio-economic status) as a group, meaning they are more affected by restrictions on registration and voting. And that's not mentioning the Electoral College, which gives a significant advantage to parties that control smaller states (which currently — for the most part — lean Republican).

So yes: making voting more restrictive mainly impacts low income voters in urban areas, those who have the least free time and fewest material and financial resources to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

At least some Republicans and conservatives explicitly advocate for this kind of implicit disenfranchisement in order to maintain power. I cannot speak to the intentions of the GOP as a whole, except to note that anyone in the political universe with any minimal competence is aware of the fact that there are material conditions to voting which can present obstacles. This has been well-known and thoroughly argued since the Jim Crow days, back when the Supreme Court struck down poll taxes, so anyone who talks about voting restrictions without also considering the issue of structural disenfranchisement is either deeply ignorant or purely Machiavellian. Granting that some conservatives do argue that there should be a 'civic commitment' standard applied to voting — akin to the ancient Greek practice of restricting the democratic participation to established property owners and native sons, on the grounds that such people have a firm commitment to the welfare of the community — the GOP itself has never raised that explicitly as a platform, for the obvious 'optics' reasons.

And note that the situation is more complex than it appears on the surface. The GOP could (for instance) work to increase its voter base, thus obviating the need for voting restrictions. But that would involve creating a forward-thinking platform meant to appeal to a broader coalition, which risks insulting certain die-hard, single-issue voting blocks that the GOP has catered to since the 70s. Those voting blocks are not exactly unified, but they represent some of the most readily mobilized elements of the GOP base, so the GOP prefers a fragmented, decentered, 'talking point' style of politics, one which allows them to play both ends against the middle without committing themselves to anything. Squeezing out unwanted voters is simpler and safer.

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    I feel like you skipped a paragraph between your first and second. You didn't do much to explain why making voting harder affects democrats more then republicans. Playing Devils Advocate democrats tend to have a slightly higher income then republicans so claiming restrictions impact low income voters could be a claim that it would hurt republicans more. And there is no reason given why low income urban voters would be impacted more then low income rural (ie republican) voters. I do think democrats are more effected, but the answer seems to jump to that conclusion without enough backing
    – dsollen
    Mar 3, 2021 at 20:26
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    The last paragraph kind of touches on why they prefer the current tactic: It's easier to pass laws to suppress the opposition than to increase participation of your base. Although the record voter turnout in the 2020 election suggests that a charismatic leader is an important component.
    – Barmar
    Mar 4, 2021 at 20:54
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    The sentence " Democrats have a lead among every demographic group except white males without a college education.", IMO, somehow contradict the latter speaking "Further, they (Democrats) have lower SES as a group, meaning they are more affected by restrictions on registration and voting." How? I feel both sentences are over generalized, biased and offensive in certain sense..
    – r13
    Mar 10, 2021 at 0:54
  • @r13: Yes, I'm aware of this flaw, and i keep meaning to revise. But life keeps getting in the way. Apologies... Mar 10, 2021 at 1:11

How long ago might this party have started advocating legislation with more restrictions?

For the Republican party in particular it began with the Southern strategy to wrest control of southern states from the Democrats by attracting conservative white voters who were afraid of desegregation and the Civil Rights movement. Prior to this, southern states were Democratic strongholds. The Republicans came out strongly against desegregation and the Civil Rights Act by nominating Barry Goldwater in 1964 who opposed the Civil Rights Act. He lost in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson who championed it, but they won five southern states.

In 1968 Nixon won on a less overtly racist platform than Goldwater. Moving away from increasingly unpopular opposition to desegregation, he ran on what we now call "dog-whistles" emphasizing the same cloaked terms we use today: "law and order" and "the war on drugs". These targeted a set of minor offenses committed more often by minorities, particularly drug convictions, and elevated them to felonies. A loophole in the 13th Amendment then allows felons to be disenfranchised. After dropping from 1960 to 1976, felony disenfranchisement has ballooned from 1 million to 6 million people. As of 2016 1-in-13 black citizens had their right to vote revoked compared to 1-in-56 non-black.

However, it's useful to recognize that the positions of the parties inverted. The US has a very long history of black voter suppression going back to the post-Civil War Black Codes and Jim Crow laws designed to continue to use black people as cheap labor and keep them from voting. Poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements, and record requirements seemed like they affected everyone while carefully crafted grandfather clauses excused people whose fathers or grandfathers had been eligible to vote ensured that white voters were less affected.

Measures such as the 24th Amendment, the aforementioned Civil Rights Act, and the Voter Rights Act of 1965 made such overt tactics more difficult, voter suppression has become increasingly cloaked. For example, as of 2016 10% of Florida is disenfranchised including over 20% of the black population. After the people overwhelmingly voted to restore voting rights to released felons in Florida, the legislature passed SB 7066 requiring they first pay off all "fines and fees" first: a modern poll tax.

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    This is interesting historical context, but I feel this answer failed to answer the question asked,; do republicans benefit in modern day of making voting harder and if so how. Their favoring the strategy back in the Nixon era doesn't mean it's a good strategy today. The Nixon example you gave was also one of intentionally disenfrachising minorities, and you haven't proved that making it harder to vote today does the same. Yes I know allot of voter ID laws etc do tend to disenfranchise minorities more, but it's usually agreed even relatively neutral burdens in voting benefit reps.
    – dsollen
    Mar 4, 2021 at 14:05
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    @dsollen They asked two questions, I answered one, and gave the other some historical context; same shit, different century. On the way I also showed the particular method of felony disenfranchisement continues to favor Republicans. Big questions can benefit from many answers.
    – Schwern
    Mar 4, 2021 at 16:45

Not necessarily.

If any once dominant political party wishes to win more elections without imposing "voting restrictions", they might also consider changing with the times to better represent the wider preferences of the general public.

  • @JSLavertu, This question has many facets, at least one of which this answer addresses. Please specify what you mean by "the" question; IOW which facet or facets it neglects.
    – agc
    Mar 12, 2021 at 22:10

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