Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called on Democrats nationwide to join the Voter Expansion Project to register new voters, make the process simpler and fight so-called "voter suppression laws."
Rawlings-Blake, who is secretary of the Democratic National Committee, said Monday the organization will educate voters about their rights, train campaign staff and use litigation to fight state laws that restrict the hours polling places are open and impose new identification standards on voters.
"We're going to ensure that every eligible voter can register and that every registered voter can vote and that every vote is counted accurately," Rawlings-Blake said. "This notion of getting more people involved in the process is one of the most fundamental values that we share as Democrats. Our democracy is only as strong as the people who participate in it."
Joining Rawlings-Blake on conference calls with reporters was Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a candidate for Texas lieutenant governor, and Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a candidate for secretary of state in Ohio.
Former President Bill Clinton announced the Voter Expansion Project last month. The goal is to build a new permanent infrastructure within the Democratic Party that will "demystify the process" of registering to vote and casting a ballot, the mayor said.
Rawlings-Blake said new voter ID laws in some states can impose barriers to voting for women who may have changed their name after a marriage or divorce or use a maiden name as a middle name. She also said that the restrictions on the hours of operation on polling places can create long lines that make it especially difficult on single mothers, who may be juggling work schedules and childcare issues.
"Let me clear: Voting rights is not only a minority issue or a regional issue," Rawlings-Blake said. Restrictions on the hours polling places can operate and new voter ID laws is an issue that "touches every household in our country."
In addition to the DNC's work to register more voters, Rawlings-Blake said the party also will advocate for new laws that increase participation.
Turner, the Ohio lawmaker, said laws that effectively restrict voter access will cause the country to regress.
"There is only one great equalizer in this nation ... and that is the ballot box. That is the place we are equal: one man, one woman, one vote," Turner said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun