Both liberals and conservatives will put more money than ever into key Secretary of State races in 2014. The officials who win these races will have a great deal of power over voting rules in the 2016 election.
From the Associated Press:
Gregg Phillips, who recently founded the conservative SOS for SOS, said his organization planned to spend $5 million to $10 million on secretary of state campaigns in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio. The group backs candidates who support photo ID requirements, proof-of-citizenship requirements and policies to prevent voter fraud.
“We have no agenda other than ensuring one person, one vote,” Phillips said. He said the group intends to support “people with a backbone, someone who is able to stand up to the name-calling.”
Actually, “ensuring one person, one vote” in a substantial fashion would mean insuring that everyone has reasonable access to their one vote. What Phillips’s is actually fighting for is just the opposite: He wants to erect needless barriers to make it as hard as possible for Black, poor, Latin@, and student voters to vote.
The article goes on:
Both parties note that unlike costly Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, many campaigns for secretary of state can cost $500,000 or less to run. That means the influx of $200,000 or more of television and radio ads could play a major role in convincing voters and influencing the outcome.
Meanwhile, from Greg Sargent, Democrats are also planning major fundraising for Secretary of State races:
A group of leading Democratic strategists is launching a new political action committee that will raise money for a very specific purpose: Getting Democratic secretaries of state who favor expanded voting elected in four states — Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.
Jeremy Bird, a national field director for Obama’s presidential campaign, tells me the effort will aim to raise in the “significant seven figures” to spend on just those four races… That could have a real impact, Bird says, because the average secretary of state candidate in such races spends an average of $500,000 total. The group’s board of directors has ties into the world of Obama and Clinton donors.
“The idea is that we need to flip the switch on this entire voting rights conversation, and go from defense on voter suppression, to offense on expanding access to voting,” Bird says of the effort, called iVote. “This isn’t a short term effort. We’ve got to be systematic. We’ve got to be dogged. We’ve got to be sure we’re out-organizing them.”
Both articles mention that $500,000 figure. But I think the age of $500,000 Secretary of State races – at least in key battleground states – is already dead and gone.
So if both parties spend like crazy on the same races, does that leave the odds in those races the same as if neither party had increased spending?
But that doesn’t mean this doesn’t matter. The increased spending will make the voter rights vs voter suppression issue more prominent. And that’s good. The more it’s in people’s minds, the harder it will be for Republican voter suppression tactics to work. Because total legal disenfranchisement is not politically viable (except when it is), modern voter suppression works by making voting as inconvenient as possible for disfavored voters. But the more voters and organizers are aware of and pissed off by these efforts, the more determined voters will be to find ways past those barriers. So the increased visibility of these races could be good for getting out the vote, even if the extra spending is a wash.
On the downside, the increased salience of big money in elections is bad. But I think that ship has sailed.