Voting rights issue sparks huge fundraising across political spectrum

Kimberly Adams Apr 28, 2021
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
The political right calls new voting laws "reforms." The left calls them "restrictions." Millions of dollars are being spent across the political spectrum on the issue. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Voting rights issue sparks huge fundraising across political spectrum

Kimberly Adams Apr 28, 2021
Heard on:
The political right calls new voting laws "reforms." The left calls them "restrictions." Millions of dollars are being spent across the political spectrum on the issue. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

There is a wave of new bills and some new laws popping up in state legislatures all over the country to change voting laws. They’ve been called efforts to reform, restrict or suppress voter access. The language used depends on where the speaker sits on the political spectrum.

And even though these are state-level laws, there is national money behind the efforts, both for and against new laws.

This is nothing new.

There’s been a fight over the right to vote throughout American history, said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice.

“New wave of voting laws”

“It’s gone into hyperdrive, though, in the last year, and that has animated this new wave of voting law proposals and restrictions in a way that none of us have seen before,” he said.

The Brennan Center is tracking at least 361 bills in 47 states that it says have restrictive provisions.

“This is a massively powerful center of gravity now on the right,” Waldman said. “It has become a fundraising issue.”

Republican groups are spending big on efforts to change voting laws in dozens of states, saying they are pushing for reforms, not restrictions. It has been good for fundraising.

“Our membership base is very encouraged that we are working in this space,” said Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy organization.

Targeting Georgia, Arizona

Heritage Action plans to spend $24 million over two years “spread out in eight, what we would consider targeted states. Two of them, we’ve already begun our spending and grassroots work in Georgia, in Arizona,” Anderson said.

The group is pushing for voter ID requirements, limits on absentee voting and ending same-day voter registration.

Anderson points to their successful campaign to help push the new Georgia voter law over the finish line, which Heritage Action is now running ads nationwide to defend, indicating that the organization “was proud to support Georgia’s election reform.”

$30 million effort

On the political left, groups like End Citizens United and the Let America Vote Fund have partnered with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee on a $30 million effort to fight the more restrictive bills and to support federal legislation to access to the ballot box. 

But that’s probably not all the money going into these fights. Jay Riestenberg with Common Cause, which advocates for more accessible voting, is particularly concerned about conservative “secret donors” funding the push for more restrictive laws. 

“Well, the truth is, we’ll never really know because a lot of these groups do not disclose their spending or where their funding comes from,” Riestenberg said. “But I think we’re well in the area of over $100 million on both sides.”

And with so many bills moving through so many statehouses, even more political cash is likely on the way.  

Clarification: (April 28, 2021): Context has been added to clarify Jay Riestenberg’s position on undisclosed political donors.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.