On Election Day, laws restricting the right to vote remain controversial, prompting voting rights advocates to scrutinize the polls in four states.
The 2014 midterms are boiling down to a battle over control of the deeply partisan Senate, though numerous state and local races are also on ballots across the country. Restrictions involving voter ID, voter registration, early voting and others have become symbolic of such political divisiveness. Yet voting rights advocates are primarily concerned about people having equal, unfettered access to the polls — in Tuesday’s elections and beyond. “The integrity of our elections is sacred,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “There are cynical hucksters out there who have decided this is the way to win elections. But if you look at the evidence, you see they’re not necessary.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that supports legislators nationwide, the number of states with some form of voter ID legislation has jumped between 2000 and 2014, from 14 states to 34. (However, voter ID laws in three of those states aren’t in place for Tuesday’s elections.) “It has been a steady increase,” explained Wendy Underhill, NCSL elections program manager, adding that “strict voter ID laws are the ones that are often taken to court and are worrisome to some voting rights advocates.”
As New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice indicated in its report, “The State of Voting in 2014,” there has been a 21-state boom in adopting new voting restrictions in the wake of the 2010 midterms — when Republicans scored major victories at the congressional, state and gubernatorial levels. That report also indicated that many controversial restrictions have passed since the Supreme Court decided last year to cut a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act.