With polls continuing to suggest a presidential election too close to call, attention has focused on what some critics refer to as voter suppression tactics and whether they could have a significant effect on such a tight race.
As with most election years, there have been regular media reports of such things as destruction of voter registration forms and allegations of voter intimidation. But more troubling for some are the suggestions that politicians, through the legislative process, are creating laws to disenfranchise certain voting groups. The accusations of legislative suppression are mostly targeted at Republicans, who are criticized by some civil rights groups for creating new laws, in particular voter identification laws, that affect mostly poor or minority voters — a demographic more inclined to vote Democrat.
“When you pass a law to prevent a crime that is not occurring or that has not occurred in decades, one wonders what the purpose of the law is,” Alexander Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard Kennedy School, told CBC News. “And when you know that in fact it is likely to have the consequence of putting an obstacle in the path of a certain percentage of voters, and very disproportionately people who are poor … it makes one wonder what is going on.”
It’s true that Republican-dominated state legislatures in some states have passed laws that could make voting more difficult. In Florida, laws were passed to limit the number of early-voting days, prohibit voting on the Sunday before the election and impose a 48-hour time limit on third-party voter groups to register new voters.
These laws, critics argue, disenfranchise certain voters. For example, some black Americans, many of whom like to cast their ballots on the Sunday before the election after attending church, would lose that opportunity to vote. But the issue that has created the biggest political firestorm and accusations of voter suppression and racism by some groups are attempts to tighten voter identification laws.