The campaigns of President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, are preparing for what could be a series of legal battles over new U.S. voting laws after the Nov. 6 election – especially if the result of the presidential race is close. The campaigns and political parties are lining up lawyers for what would amount to a new wave of litigation surrounding election laws that have been approved by Republican-led legislatures in more than a dozen states since 2010. Some of the laws involve requiring voters to produce photo identification. Others curtail early-voting periods that are designed to help working-class people cast ballots if they can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. Still others have imposed strict requirements on groups that conduct voter-registration drives.
Republicans have said the laws are aimed largely at preventing voter fraud. But Democrats, civil rights advocates and other critics say their true purpose is to suppress voting among minorities and other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Dozens of legal battles already are being waged over such laws in courts across the nation, and judges have tossed out a few of the laws in politically divided states that could be crucial in deciding what has been a close presidential race between Obama and Romney.
Among those states: Florida, where new requirements for voter registration drives have led to a dramatic decline in people registering to vote; and Ohio, where a judge rejected a law aimed at cutting back the state’s early-voting period. But even in states where courts have tossed out new voting laws, the laws already may have had an impact on the November election – and therefore created the basis for new litigation, analysts say.