US Democrats hoard lawyers and cash to fight Republican election laws

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a party for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), at the Washington Hotel, in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

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WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Democrats are preparing to spend record sums on lawyers, advertising and other vote-protecting efforts ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, in hopes of preventing Republican efforts that they say will prevent access to the polls.

Fearing that a series of more restrictive election laws passed by Republican-controlled states could prevent Democrats from registering their votes, donors large and small are filling their party coffers.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) took in $157 million last year, the most in a year without a presidential election, and added another $10 million in January. More than half of Democrats’ national funding comes from people giving less than $200, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks political spending.

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The party and its allies have set aside more money to fight fires in relatively few competitive local jurisdictions where small changes can mean the difference between Republican and Democratic victories.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), tasked with holding the party’s majority in the House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 election, will commit at least $10 million to voting rights litigation, a person familiar with folder.

This eight-figure budget, which hasn’t been reported before and is expected to at least match the DCCC’s record spending in 2020, comes on top of a $30 million commitment from the DNC for voter registration efforts and litigation and $10 million from the Senate campaign. A person familiar with the operation said Democrats expect the largest spending in history for such efforts.

The party-wide effort, still in its early stages, includes both litigation to challenge laws such as voter list purges, coupled with targeted outreach on digital platforms to register new voters and counter the misinformation about voting, as well as an effort to elect often overlooked Democrats. electoral administration positions such as secretaries of state.

“This is an all-out effort to make sure every ballot is counted,” said Rep. Nikema Williams, a Georgia Democrat leading the DCCC effort, adding that the investments were needed to counter a “decades-long crusade”. by Republicans to “suppress the vote”.

This official effort comes with additional spending from outside political groups, such as Priorities USA and American Bridge 21st Century, which have traditionally focused on political ad spending. American Bridge has committed at least $10 million this month to efforts including recruiting Democrats to run for office as elected officials and fighting attempts to nullify future elections.

“The Democrats have a pretty extensive voter protection operation,” said Amir Badat, voting special counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a nonpartisan group that also engages in major human rights litigation. vote.

Still, Badat said he expects new challenges this year.

He fears the vigilante efforts that threatened voters and election officials in 2020 could expand, especially given new laws that make it easier for pollwatchers to observe voters. He sees the midterm elections as an empty race for the next presidential election.

“A lot of what happens in 2022 will be an experiment for what can be done in 2024, mainly from the standpoint of what law enforcement tactics can work,” he said.

REPUBLICANS ADAPT EFFORTS

Democratic efforts are also being countered by an equally forceful and well-funded Republican effort.

A person familiar with Republican National Committee spending said the party would budget “millions more” on voting matters and that ensuring “the 2022 and 2024 elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner is one of our top priorities.” The party is hiring attorneys in 17 target states and is already engaged in more than 30 related lawsuits, the person said.

So far, before the campaign even begins, Democrats and Republicans are running neck and neck in legal and related spending at $52 million each before the election for control of Congress, according to OpenSecrets.

Democrats and Republicans each spent about $120 million in legal fees during the 2020 showdown between Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump, the data shows.

In Texas, for example, where the opening House party primary contests were held on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers instituted stricter identification requirements for people who vote by mail.

Local election officials in Texas’ largest counties say early evidence shows a significant portion of mail-in ballots arriving for the election do not meet the new requirements for reasons as simple as the voter used a card identity different from the one he provided when registering.

After the last election, Trump combines lightning courts with lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the election.

But the Republican effort to challenge the election was telegraphed early by Trump and failed in court. Democrats have also been successful in convincing the courts to expand options like mail-in voting during the pandemic. A record 155 million people voted in the 2020 election won by Biden.

Republicans fought back to tighten access to the polls. And conservative courts have since dealt some setbacks to efforts to expand access.

Lawyers expect to be busier than ever. Last year, mega-lawyer Marc Elias, who works for the Democrats, parted ways with Perkins Coie LLP to found his own 65-advisor firm in Washington, focused on the litigation effort.

The party expects a series of issues like the Texas restrictions, which it hopes can be remedied with aggressive legal action and quick organization.

Lawmakers in 27 states are considering more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions in January, up from 75 bills a year ago, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a group defense.

Civil rights activists argue that the measures have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities, who vote to a greater extent for Democrats.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” said Aneesa McMillan, deputy executive director of Priorities USA, which has earmarked at least $20 million for its voting rights efforts. “It’s a coordinated attack on marginalized communities.”

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Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Andrea Ricci

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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