The Democratic Party has recently taken to using cries of voter suppression as an attack against Republican elected officials, candidates, and policies. From limits on early voting to voter ID, Democrats are quick to levy the charge of voter suppression, but a professor from UC-Berkely recently held up a mirror to the country's left-wing and revealed an ugly reality.
From 2001 to 2011, Democrats have been responsible for a massive suppression of voter turnout through their opposition to consolidated election cycles. It is a well-known fact that off-year elections yield the lowest voter turnout. What many not realize is that there are other, more sporadic election cycles in the country as opposed to just odd-year voting in November. In New Jersey, for example, state elections are held in November of odd years while school district elections are held in April and fire district commissioners are elected in February.
Professor Anzia asked a nationally representative sample of Americans if they prefer elections to be held at different times for different office "because it allows voters to focus on a shorter list of candidates and issues" or consolidated elections "because combining the elections boosts voter turnout for local elections." Voters responded with a clear preference for consolidated elections.
So, given this obvious preference, why isn't there a push to move toward these consolidated elections cycles? Well, from 2001 to 2011 there were approximately 200 bills put forward nationwide to cut down on the number of separate elections and ease the burden on voters. Of these bills only 25 became law. Most interestingly, a majority of the bills were sponsored by Republicans and failed because of Democratic opposition at the urging of Democratic-aligned interest groups, including teachers unions and municipal employee organizations.
Why? Because Democrats know that the voters who turnout in off-year elections tend to have a special interest in the issues or candidates on the ballot. These Democratic groups crave low voter-turnout because they know they will be able to get their members to the polls and that their vote will have a disproportionate impact in favor the groups' liberal agenda.
So while the Democrats are happy to champion voter-rights when it serves as a useful, albeit dishonest, attack on Republicans, it seems they are less inclined to do so when it stands in the way of their policy objectives.