Here's One Way to Attract Minority Voters

Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins has a great examination of the Republican Party’s renewed attempt to reach out to minority voters. In short, it’s not just that the GOP needs to recruit nonwhite candidates—it also needs “to overcome is own overwhelming whiteness” as an organization. “There is not a single racial minority among the 20 most senior officials who run the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee,” writes Coppins. And absent any connection to nonwhite communities, it’s difficult to make genuine inroads.

Coppins is focused on the Republican Party’s image, but there’s also the question of policy, and more broadly, respect. It’s not just that nonwhite voters disagree with Republican priorities on the economy—it’s that the GOP gives little indication that it respects the interests of blacks, Latinos, and other minorities. To wit, Republican lawmakers continue to push voter identification laws that disproportionately burden minority voters. As Ari Berman notes for The Nation, “fifty-five new voting restrictions have been introduced in thirty states so far this year.” And that’s to say nothing of conservative attempts to repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates “pre-clearance” of voting changes in areas with histories of discrimination.

The GOP just can’t hire new personnel if it wants to make headway with nonwhite voters. They need to show real interest in the particular priorities of minority voters. And that begins with abandoning the drive to limit their presence at the polls. Because in the end, Republican protests notwithstanding, that is the practical effect of the voter identification laws pushed and passed by GOP legislatures. “[S]tudy after study,” writes Berman, “has shown that voter ID laws disproportionately impact young and minority voters. Not only are these constituencies less likely to have photo ID, but even in states without ID laws, black and Hispanic youth were significantly more likely than whites to be asked to show ID.”

It’s insane that anyone has to say this in 2013, but if conservatives want minorities to consider the Republican Party as a political home, they’ll have to begin by showing minorities they respect their right to vote.