Coffee Break Ballot, June 15: Current Trends in Voting Rights

As if voting rights and voter ID weren’t already contentious and highly partisan issues, the latest readings from Twitterverse tea leaves suggest the issue has the potential to vault into the chaos of election-year politics.

President Obama’s surprise announcement Friday of a revised administration policy on youth deportation and immigrant rights caused U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., to openly wonder — on FOX News and in a statement on his Facebook page — if the policy was a back-door approach to granting voting rights to illegal immigrants in swing states like his.

The #VotingRights hashtag was taken over yesterday by progressive Twitter users questioning GOP candidate Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with copies of the following tweet:

@MittRomney, where do you stand on the FL voter purge? #p2 #votingrights

The increasing presence of voting rights activists on both sides of the political divide at campaign events and in policy discussions suggests we might see these issues become key electoral questions. Indeed, in potential presidential swing states with contentious tickets for November — states such as North Carolina and Missouri — questions of voter ID laws and the expansion of the franchise have become wedge issues for gubernatorial and secretary of state candidates.

Will this change the digital conversation around voting rights? We’ll be the first to tell you when and if those changes happen.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida’s voting standoff deja vu?” (Halimah Abdullah, 06/13, CNN)

Gov. Scott says he ‘feels your pain,’ will continue purge anyway,” (The Ed Show, 06/14,

Rep. Allen West Alleges New Obama Policy On DREAMers Is Voter Fraud Conspiracy For 2012 Election,” (Adam Peck, 06/15, ThinkProgressJustice)

On the Administration’s announcement today to grant certain citizenship rights to young illegal immigrants,” (Rep. Allen West, 06/15, Facebook)

Indianapolis Meeting Compares Voting Machine Standards,” (Network Indiana, 06/15, Indiana Public Media)

NOTES FROM NARBERTH: Don’t believe the rhetoric: Voter ID law is fair to all,” (Rosemary McDonough, 06/14, Mainline Times)

The Missing Right To Vote,” (Heather Gerken, 06/13, Slate)

Twitter Trends

As we mentioned earlier, the #VotingRights hashtag has been largely dominated by progressive opponents of Florida’s controversial voter removal. Liberal political action committee posted a digital call to action yesterday, asking readers to tweet and post Facebook comments inquiring where Romney stands on the voting rights controversy in Florida.

Social media search engine suggests the hashtag dominance hasn’t been enough to produce a major spike in the term when compared to recent high points — the June 5 Wisconsin recall election and the eruption of election lawsuits in Florida June 12 — but it has increased mentions and taken over our Tweet Deck column.

There may not be another contentious election or primary before November for us to test the admittedly elementary theory that ballot access only receives widespread attention when everyone is actively voting (or not voting), but we’ll keep our eyes open for better ways to chart the mention trends of #VotingRights, #VoterID, #VoterFraud and #VoterSuppression.

Be sure to follow us @WhoCanVote, and stay tuned for more from our team next week!