Seeking to focus the attention of lawmakers and election reform groups on the obstacles to full participation of the American electorate and the path to election reform, Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV) just released a comprehensive report titled, “Access to Democracy: Identifying Obstacles Hindering the Right to Vote.” Consolidating a variety of studies from expert sources into one document, the findings confirm the most significant obstacles to voter participation and outline those election reforms which would yield the most positive results.

One reform promoted in the study is “no excuse early voting”, which currently is not allowed in Missouri.  Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has made early voting her top legislative priority for this session, but the Republican leadership has so far refused to pass a clean bill on the subject.  Instead, GOP leaders have attached early voting to restrictive Photo ID requirements.  This new report also criticizes such burdensome identification requirements due to their effect of excluding legitamate voters.

While the study discusses obstacles to voter participation in general, it focuses on the unique impact it has on traditionally under-represented groups who comprise the majority (52%) of the population – African Americans, Latinos, unmarried women and young voters – it is unmarried women who drive this majority and the mission of Women’s Voices Women Vote.

“Challenges that affect unmarried women most particularly, include greater mobility and access to less economic resources – they have the highest poverty rate of any cross-section of the adult population,” said Gardner. “Yet it is exactly this portion of the population for whom we make voter registration most difficult in this country.”

Missourians would do well to read this report, and learn specific steps that we can take here – like no excuse early voting – that would allow more Missourians to participate in elections and in the public policy process.

The study can be downloaded at http://www.wvwv.org.