Several new US state election laws that become effective in 2012 may make it harder for some qualified voters to cast their ballots, according to a report [text] released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice [advocacy website]. The report indicates that as many as five million voters may be affected by the changes and may find itsignificantly harder to vote in 2012:
These new restrictions 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. ... Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters at a time when the United States continues to turn out less than two thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.The study examined the five broad categories of new election laws: those that require voters show photo identification to vote, those that require proof of citizenship to register to vote, those that make it harder to register to vote by eliminating same day voter registration, those that reduce early and absentee voting and those that make it harder for convicted felons to restore their voting rights. The study notes that further changes to states election laws may occur as the second halves of some state legislative sessions have already begun.
Of the changes in state voting laws, requirements that voters present some form of ID at the polls are the most prevalent. With the new changes in place, there are now 30 US states that require voters to present ID, including 14 states that require photo ID, but the issue remains controversial. In August, South Carolina civil rights groups urged [JURIST report] the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to block the state from implementing a new law [R54 materials] that would require voters to present photo ID in order to cast their ballots. In June, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed legislation [JURIST report] that would have required individuals to present government-issued photo ID at the voting booth. In May, the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld a state law [JURIST report] that requires voters to present one of six government-issued photo identifications in order to vote. In contrast, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration in October.