A nationwide discourse over numerous proposed and enacted changes to state voting laws has reached a new level of fervor in the United States. State legislative sessions in 2011 and 2012 have resulted in 180 different bills that restrict some aspect of state voting laws. Types of legislation introduced have varied from new demands for voter identification to tighter restrictions regarding voter registration periods and processes, as well as a shortening of time frames for casting early ballots ahead of election days. The majority of this activity has occurred in Southern and Midwest states, the bulk of which are controlled by Republican legislatures and governors whose ostensible premise is to increase protection against electoral fraud. Citing the findings of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Law Changes in 2012 report, Democrats have criticized the wave of legislation as deliberating placing restrictions on youth, minority, elderly and poor voters. The report argues that voting will become significantly more burdensome for five million eligible voters than it was in 2008 elections. The main source of debate has revolved around the questions over an increased burden on voters in the November elections, and whether it will contribute to a marked decrease in electoral fraud.
The substantial increase in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election can be attributed to demographic groups who have historically tended to vote for Democrats. The U.S. Bureau reported in July 2012 that African Americans showed a 2 million-vote increase over 2004 and had the highest turnout rate in the age group of 18 to 24-year-old voters. Hispanic and Asian voters contributed a respective 2.6 million votes to the 5 million additional voters in 2008. Popular consensus attributes President Obama’s victory over John McCain to this increased participation of youth and minority voters.
As with every election cycle, allegations of fraudulent activity surfaced, but in 2008 electoral fraud was not viewed as having been an issue which warranted detailed investigation. Consequently, the Democrats have asserted that the measures introduced are part of a Republican attempt at voter suppression. Demographics that had previously shown low voting turnouts – minorities and youth in particular – came out in force in 2008. This is suspected to have provoked a legislative rebuttal cloaked in claims of anti-electoral fraud.