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Could Liberal Hand Wringing About Voter Suppression Backfire?

From Houston to Raleigh to Indiana’s Marion County, conservative poll watchers are being accused by Democrats of overstepping the line and intimidating voters in their efforts to deter voter fraud. But could Democratic hand wringing about voter suppression actually be hurting the party’s efforts to turn out the vote? Mother Jones’ Suzy Khimm reports:

As voter-fraud hysteria mounts, Democrats and their allies are trying to sound the alarm about potential voter intimidation and suppression—partly to warn supporters that their rights might be trampled upon, and partly to paint the opposition as paranoid and overzealous. But highlighting these tactics has a downside: in drawing attention to problems that could arise at the polls, Democratic officials and voting rights advocates also run the risk of overhyping potential intimidation—and deterring even more voters from showing up.

“If we yell too loud about it, it helps them create the sense that the polling place is a dangerous place to be,” says Matt Angle, a Texas Democratic strategist who’s aiding get-out-the-vote efforts in the state. Vote suppression “should be tracked, monitored, and publicized when it occurs. But maybe not so much anticipatory hand-wringing—it just makes matters worse,” says Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University who runs the polling firm Latino Decisions.

If this is true, it puts Democrats in a catch-22. They’re outraged about the widely exaggerated claims of voter fraud made by the right, but now they’re also worried that publicizing intimidation efforts at the polls will work against their overall message in low-income neighborhoods that voting is easy and painless — so go do it!

There’s probably a happy medium that could be reached here — one in which both sides acknowledge that instances of actual voter fraud and voter suppression are relatively rare. But in the heat of an election — in which some Republicans see little downside in playing up alleged voting irregularities into national scandals — that’s appearing a lot easier said than done.

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