With several key elections potentially hinging on razor-thin margins, Americans went to the polls Tuesday in 34 states with new voting laws that critics fear will adversely impact minority turnout and proponents say are needed to protect against voter fraud. The new laws – ranging from photo identification requirements to restrictions on same-day registration – brought increased scrutiny Tuesday from the two major political parties, civic groups, voting rights advocates and the Justice Department, almost all deploying monitors and lawyers to polling stations to look out for voting problems. “It’s the new normal since 2000,” said Richard Hasen, a law and politics professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “Some of this is legitimate fear, some of it is a way of getting the base wound up and (to) raise funds.” From the moment polls opened ‑ and in some cases before ‑ reports of voting irregularities began. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s election protection program reported more than 12,000 calls to its hotline – the bulk of them from Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York and North Carolina.
Georgia and Texas have strict photo ID laws, meaning those who don’t have proper identification can vote via provisional ballots but must provide sufficient identification within days of casting those ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Florida, voters without ID can cast provisional ballots and their signatures can be verified by election officials with signatures on record.
“Yes, there are people saying they’re not being allowed to vote,” Barbara Arnwine, the lawyers’ committee’s president and executive director, said without providing specific details. “Unfortunately it’s coming from a number of states. We say it’s for two reasons: Some of them are states like Texas where, sadly, the voter ID law has been allowed to proceed. . . . The other thing that we’re seeing is that states just didn’t do their jobs of getting to voters the correct information about voter registration status and polling places.”