With the presidential election less than three months away, millions of Americans will be navigating new requirements for voting – if they can vote at all – as their state leaders implement dozens of new restrictions that could make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Since the last presidential election in 2012, politicians in 20 states including Texas passed 37 different new voting requirements that they said were needed to prevent voter fraud, a News21 analysis found. More than a third of those changes require voters to show specified government-issued photo IDs at the polls or reduce the number of acceptable IDs required by pre-existing laws. In Texas, one such voter ID law has been ruled discriminatory by a federal appeals court; as a result, the state’s voters won’t have to show ID in the November general election. “We have two world views: the people that think voter fraud is rampant and the people who want to push the narrative that it’s hard to vote. The bottom line is neither is true,” said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has been sued several times over his state’s removal of some voters from the registration rolls, elimination of same-day registration and curbs to early voting. “I believe that both political parties are trying to push a narrative that suits their agenda.” Adding to the uncertainty for millions of voters nationally, not all the states’ changes may be in place for the November election. Some, like Texas’, were limited or overturned by court decisions still subject to appeal.
The new voting requirements, enacted in states mostly in the South and Midwest, were nine times more likely to have been passed by Republican legislatures than those controlled by Democrats, and almost five times more likely to have been signed by a GOP governor, the News21 analysis found.
In addition to requiring voter ID, they reduced the number of days voters can cast ballots in person before election day, placed new restrictions on voter registration drives, eliminated opportunities to register and vote on the same day, or moved up deadlines to register and still vote on election day. Republican-controlled Texas and Wisconsin passed the strictest voter ID laws, while North Carolina and Ohio are among those that eliminated same-day registration and reduced early voting days.
“These laws can be explained by partisanship and by race,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal civil rights advocacy group. “It’s hard to reconcile these actual laws with the stated purpose. The more reasonable and likely explanation is political self-interest. Voting laws are a way to restrict voters you think are more likely to vote for the other side.”