Monday, October 3, 2011

New Voting Laws Could Keep 5 Million Voters From The Polls In 2012

Strict voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report (PDF) by the Brennan Center. That's a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

In 2011, Texas and 17 other state legislatures across the country debated a requirement to have voters show one of a very limited selection of government issued photo identification to polling place officials to qualify to vote. The motivation for this legislative discussion is the widely distributed conservative allegation that Democratic voters commonly commit in-person voting impersonation fraud to qualify to vote.

States that Require Photo ID
Strict Photo ID Photo ID
South Carolina (2)
Tennessee (3)
Texas (2)
Wisconsin (4)
Alabama (2), (7)
South Dakota
States that Require ID
(Photo Not Required)
North Dakota
Oklahoma (5)
Rhode Island (6)
  1. The Kansas law takes effect January 1, 2012.
  2. In Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, current non-photo voter ID laws stay in effect for the time being. The new photo voter ID requirements will take effect after receiving pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
  3. Tennessee's new photo ID requirement takes effect January 1, 2012. Until then, the existing non-photo ID requirement remains in effect.
  4. Poll workers in Wisconsin will begin asking voters to present ID immediately, but voters will not be required to present ID until the February 2012 spring primary election.
  5. There are some who prefer to call Oklahoma a photo voter ID state, because most voters will show a photo ID before voting. However, Oklahoma law also permits a voter registration card issued by the appropriate county elections board to serve as proof of identity in lieu of photo ID.
  6. Rhode Island's new non-photo ID requirement takes effect January 1, 2012. On January 1, 2014, a photo ID requirement will replace the non-photo ID law.
  7. Alabama's new photo ID requirement takes effect with the 2014 statewide primary election. The new law also requires pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice. The delayed implementation date was intended to ensure that the timing of pre-clearance did not occur between the primary and general elections of 2012, thus creating voter confusion.
Source: NCSL

The Brennan Center study found the new strict photo ID laws, "fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election."

The study found that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 - 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

The total number, according to the Brennan Center, is the sum of the 3.2 million voters they estimate will be affected by new photo ID laws, "the 240,000 citizens and potential voters who could be affected by new proof of citizenship laws, 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws, 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed, one to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting and at least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012."

"These voting law changes are radical and completely unnecessary," Wendy. R. Weiser, a co-author of the report, said in a statement. "They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people, and students. Often they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters."

Governor Rick Perry (R) signed SB14 into law last May requiring voters to present one of limited selection of unexpired government issued photo identification to qualify to vote in Texas elections:

  • A driver’s license, election ID certificate, or personal ID card issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety (i.e., an election certificate issued to a person 70 years or older does not expire);
  • U.S. military ID card that contains the person's photograph;
  • U.S. citizenship certificate issued to the voter with their photograph;
  • U.S. passport; or
  • A license to carry a concealed handgun.

Student IDs and Veteran ID's will not be accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting.
Thirty states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In 14 of these, the ID must include a photo of the voter; in the remaining 16, non-photo forms of ID are acceptable. Voter ID laws can be broken down into the three following categories:

Strict Photo ID (7 states):
During 2011 two states--Kansas and Wisconsin--passed new voter identification laws that mandate a strict photo ID requirement, and three states with existing non-photo ID laws -- South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- amended their existing voter ID laws to require a new strict photo ID requirement. None of these new laws passed in 2011 are yet in effect, although they likely will be before the 2012 elections. (see notes in table right)
Photo ID (7 states):
Voters are asked to show a photo ID in order to vote. Voters who are unable to show photo ID are still allowed to vote if they can meet certain other identification criteria. In some states, a voter with ID can vouch for a voter without an ID.

Other states ask a voter without ID to provide personal information such as a birth date, or sign an affidavit swearing to his or her identity. Voters without ID are not required to return to election officials after the election to show a photo ID in order to have their ballots counted as is required of voters without proper photo ID in the strict photo ID states.

The seven states with photo ID laws are Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota. The reason Alabama's new photo ID is not considered "strict" is that student photo IDs and other photo IDs in addition to the "strict" list of IDs can be used to vote.

Non-Photo ID (16 states): All voters must show ID at the polls. The list of acceptable IDs is varied and includes options that do not have a photo, such as a utility bill or bank statement with the voter's name and address.

More @
DOJ v. SCOTUS On Texas' Voter Photo ID Law
Brennan Center: Millions Of Voters Impacted By New Photo I.D., Citizenship And Registration Laws

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