Editorials: Voter Suppression Returns: Voting rights and partisan practices | Alexandar Keyssar/Harvard Magazine
The 2012 election campaign—for Congress as well as the presidency—promises to be bitterly fought, even nasty. Leaders of both major parties, and their core constituents, believe that the stakes are exceptionally high; neither party has much trust in the goodwill or good intentions of the other; and, thanks in part to the Supreme Court, money will be flowing in torrents, some of it from undisclosed sources and much of it available for negative campaigning. This also promises to be a close election—which is why a great deal of attention is being paid to an array of recently passed, and pending, state laws that could prevent hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of eligible voters from casting ballots. Several states, including Florida (once again, a battleground), have effectively closed down registration drives by organizations like the League of Women Voters, which have traditionally helped to register new voters; some states are shortening early-voting periods or prohibiting voting on the Sunday before election day; several are insisting that registrants provide documentary proof of their citizenship. Most importantly—and most visibly—roughly two dozen states have significantly tightened their identification rules for voting since 2003, and the pace of change has accelerated rapidly in the last two years. Ten states have now passed laws demanding that voters possess a current government-issued photo ID, and several others have enacted measures slightly less strict. A few more may take similar steps before November—although legal challenges could keep some of the laws from taking effect.