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Will voter ID laws keep Latinos from the polls in November?

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A voter places her ballot into a ballot box in Los Angeles, California.

To what degree might a growing number of voter ID laws and policies affect Latino voters come November? According to a new report from the Advancement Project, a racial justice and civil rights organization, those affected could reach into the millions.

There are deep partisan divisions over the effects of voter ID laws, with Republican backers in several states arguing that such laws are necessary to deter voter fraud, while mostly Democratic opponents say they keep eligible voters of color from the polls. 

Here's what the report suggests based on policies in nearly two dozen states, including noncitizen voter-roll purges, proof of citizenship requirements, and photo ID laws: 

This report finds that 23 states currently have legal barriers that disproportionately impact voter registration and participation by Latino citizens. These obstacles could deter or prevent more than 10 million Latino citizens from registering and voting in the 2012 elections. In Florida, for example, eligible Latino voters amount to nine times the 2008 margin of victory, and in Colorado, the number of eligible Latino voters is twice the 2008 margin of victory.  

How can this happen? The report explains how the policies work and suggests how problems can occur, for example, with the noncitizen voter-roll purges being pursued in several states:

There are more than 1.1 million naturalized citizens from Latin America living in these 16 states. As naturalized citizens, they are potential targets for removal from the voter rolls unless they can prove their citizenship, despite the fact that they have taken an oath of citizenship and are legally registered to vote.

The policies of these 16 states will also impact Latinos who are U.S.-born citizens, as many live in mixed-status families and communities, and are therefore likely to be intimidated by government actions challenging their immigration status.

Florida is used as a case study:

In 2000 and 2004 Florida purges were purportedly aimed at removing ineligible people with felony convictions from the rolls, but instead they erroneously identified tens of thousands of eligible citizens with no criminal records. These purges disproportionately harmed African Americans, who in 2000 showed up on Election Day to find that their names had been wrongfully removed from voter lists. 

Black, Asian American and other voters of color are also affected by voter ID laws and policies, the report argues, but these can disproportionately affect Latino voter turnout due to the sheer size of that electorate.

The report is to be published soon in the law and policy journal of the Hispanic National Bar Association. It can be downloaded in its entirety here

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