More than half a dozen states have passed new laws to reduce early voting, setting up a clash with civil rights groups and Democrats who claim the rules could disenfranchise minority voters in the 2012 election for the White House and Congress. Among states with new restrictions: Wisconsin and Florida, presidential swing states that also are key battlegrounds in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow advantage.
In Florida, nearly 3.3 million Democrats cast in-person ballots before Election Day in the 2008 contest that swept President Obama into power. By contrast, 810,666 Florida Republicans participated in the in-person early voting that year, according to the Florida secretary of State’s office. Obama won the state by 3 percentage points.
Five other states — Ohio, Georgia, Maine, Tennessee and West Virginia— this year approved laws shortening early voting, according to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures. With the exception of West Virginia, Republicans control the governor’s offices and legislatures in those states. The Republican-controlled Legislature in another key presidential battleground state, North Carolina, plans to revisit a proposal next year to reduce early voting from 16 days to 10.
Proponents say their efforts will hold down election costs. Opponents say early voting restrictions, along with new laws in six states requiring photo identification at the polls, will thwart traditionally Democratic voters, including college students, African Americans and Latinos. “Republicans think their path to victory is through limiting eligible voters’ access to the polls,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “Our goal is to maximize participation.”
The campaign scored a key victory Friday when Ohio officials certified that the law’s opponents had collected enough signatures to get a repeal petition on the November ballot. That delays implementation of the law.
Obama’s political operation, Organizing for America, helped run the petition drive, which collected nearly half a million signatures. Efforts are underway in other states to combat new voting restrictions, campaign officials said.
Full Article: Some liberal groups fight early-voting limits – USATODAY.com.