A number of states have made recent changes to their voting laws, tweaks which could serve to complicate the voting process for many Americans. Seven states have enacted a photo ID requirement to vote, five have passed restrictions on early and absentee voting and three now require proof of citizenship.
Other laws passed include abolishment of Election Day registration and hurdles to the restoration of voting rights for those with past felony convictions. Similar legislation has been introduced in over two dozen more states. Altogether, the states with effective changes comprise around 61 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
According to a new study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, these new laws could potentially adversely affect around 5 million voters in total. For example, many seniors, students and immigrants don’t have a driver’s license, which is the only acceptable form of photo ID in some areas. And, they say, rapidly changing laws could result in voter confusion, both in the registration process and at the polls. Some critics worry that minority and poor voters will be unfairly impacted and voter turnout will be reduced – at a time when less than two thirds of eligible citizens are voting in presidential elections and less than half in midterm contests.
Proponents of the changes cite the need to combat voter fraud, which they say has historically corrupted poll results in more than one election. They say citizens now must show photo ID to board an airplane, cash a check, drink a beer – so why should voting be different?
Would you support legislation that tightens voter registration requirements? Do you think it’s realistic to fear that the new voting laws could skew next year’s election? What if you showed up at the polls without your driver's license and were told you couldn’t vote?
Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, and co-author of the study "Voting Law Changes in 2012"
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation