Minority voters have long had problems simply exercising their right to vote in certain parts of the country – and minority lawmakers fear the situation will become worse in 2012. Their worries are heightened by new laws in 13 states that they say will restrict access to the ballot box. Some of the changes would require voters to show government-approved identification, restrict voter registration drives by third-party groups, curtail early voting, do away with same-day registration, and reverse rules allowing convicted felons who’ve served their time the right to vote.
In addition to the states that have passed such laws, 24 other states are weighing similar measures, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.
Proponents of the measures say they are needed to protect the integrity of the vote, prevent illegal immigrants from casting ballots, and clamp down on voter fraud, although several studies indicate that voter fraud is negligible.
Civil rights groups, voting experts and some lawmakers say the new laws have echoes of poll taxes and literacy tests – devices that for generations blocked black voters from easily going to the polls.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters last week that the new voting laws are “perverse policies” designed to “subvert Americans’ basic right to vote.”