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A financial twist on the 'war on voting'

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When we talk about the "war on voting," we tend to think of restrictions Republican policymakers are placing between voters and the ballot box in advance of the 2012 elections. Measures like voter-ID laws may prevent millions of Americans from participating this November.

But Reuters reports today on a different kind of voting problem: communities that are so short on funds, they're "struggling to come up with the millions of dollars they will need to hold the November 6 elections" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).

It is a problem that could affect candidates and political parties in November but particularly President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats, who are relying on support from big cities such as Detroit.

Local governments across the nation are planning to shift costs -- putting off road repairs for a few days while transit crews work on elections, or borrowing workers from other departments to help count votes.

But they also are laying off staff who would have helped with voter questions, and cutting back the hours that polls are open.

Nothing says "21st century superpower" like watching American cities curtail road repair in order to afford an election.

Regardless, the practical effects are hard to ignore: fewer election workers and fewer precincts means longer lines and lower turnout.

What's more, as Ed Kilgore explained this morning, we're seeing the confluence of Republican interests: "[I]t's particularly interesting to watch Republicans simultaneously promote austerity policies for state and local governments and new restrictions on voting. Many conservatives favor the former as an end in itself, but are receiving a sort of bonus as competent election administration becomes one of those luxuries many jurisdictions can't quite afford."