The Obama administration on Tuesday will wade into the increasingly divisive national debate over new voting laws in several states that could depress turnout among minorities and others who helped elect the president in 2008.
A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although Democratic governors vetoed four of the measures, liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an “assault on democracy” and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.
With the presidential campaign heating up, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will deliver a speech Tuesday expressing concerns about the voter-identification laws, along with a Texas redistricting plan before the Supreme Court that fails to take into account the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, he said in an interview Monday.
Holder will speak at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Libary and Museum in Austin, Tex., which honors the president who shepherded the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.
“We are a better nation now than we were because more people are involved in the electoral process,’’ Holder said in the interview. “The beauty of this nation, the strength of this nation, is its diversity, and when we try to exclude people from being involved in the process . . . we weaken the fabric of this country.’’
Some of the measures, most of which were enacted by Republican legislatures, also impose restrictions on early voting and make it harder for former felons to vote. Florida and Ohio, for example — both key battlegrounds — would cut nearly in half the number of days for early voting.
The speech comes as debate is intensifying over whether the primary impact of the new laws will be to keep eligible voters away from the polls in the November 2012 election or deter election fraud.
One study estimated that the changes could affect more than 5 million voters overall, potentially keeping them away from the polls in states that also include Wisconsin, Kansas and South Carolina.