Monday, December 5, 2011

NBC | As 2012 Turnout Battle Brews, Justice Department Eyes Voter ID Laws

If it’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign sea­son, it must be time for another furor over voter fraud and voter suppression. As the Democ­rats did in 2008, they are again charg­ing that Repub­li­cans are try­ing to use photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion laws and other changes in elec­tion laws to win­now out would-be Demo­c­ra­tic voters.

The dif­fer­ence this time: six more states have enacted laws, or strength­ened their exist­ing laws, requir­ing vot­ers to show a form of photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion such as a driver’s license in order to cast a ballot. The stand­out among the new voter ID states: Wis­con­sin, which may have a recall elec­tion next year for Repub­li­can Gov. Scott Walker. It also has a mar­quee Sen­ate race and will likely be a bat­tle­ground in the pres­i­den­tial race.

Last week Demo­c­ra­tic National Com­mit­tee chair­woman Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz launched a new mobi­liza­tion effort, say­ing, “Repub­li­cans across the coun­try have engaged in a full-scale attack on the right to vote, seek­ing ways to restrict or limit vot­ers’ abil­ity to cast their bal­lots for their own par­ti­san advantage.”

The strat­egy, she con­tended, dis­pro­por­tion­ally affects African-Americans, Lati­nos, and young peo­ple and could “skew the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the Repub­li­cans’ favor.”

Assis­tant Attor­ney for Civil Rights Thomas Perez said last week that Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers are review­ing some of the recently-enacted state laws to ensure that they com­ply with the Vot­ing Rights Act and do not have “a racially dis­crim­i­na­tory pur­pose or dis­crim­i­na­tory effect.”

Advocates of broader voting rights are looking forward to a speech on voting next week by Attorney General Eric Holder. “We’ve been pushing him hard to do that because we think it is a national crisis,” said Laura Murphy, the director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The big question is what will the Justice Department do – and that’s why we’re so excited about the attorney general’s upcoming speech.”

Democrats confront one big obstacle: the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision handed down in 2008 and written by Justice John Paul Stevens, upheld Indiana’s photo identification law. “There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters,” Stevens said. The decision left open the possibility that future plaintiffs could try to show that, as applied in specific cases, a voter ID law is unconstitutional.

Full Arti­cle: NBC Pol­i­tics — As 2012 turnout bat­tle brews, Jus­tice Dept. eyes voter ID laws.

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