Report: New Restrictive Voting Rules Could Hurt 5 Million Americans

A new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University (NYU) puts forth an ominous prediction: five million voters could be affected by the deluge of restrictive voting laws that have swept the country in recent years.

The report finds that the voters are from traditionally Democratic demographics and could be kept away from the polling booths in 2012. Importantly, the sheer number of voters who could be impacted is larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

State governments across the country have enacted an array of new laws that make it harder for likely voters to register. The new rules include often costly voter ID laws; proof of citizenship requirements; and the elimination of early, absentee, and election day registration programs. For many states, the new rules are costly for both residents and state governments.

“Already 19 new laws and two new executive actions are in place and at least 42 bills are still pending,” according to the report “Voting Law Changes in 2012.”

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, low-income, and voters of color, as well as on voters with disabilities. Additional findings the report found:

These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

Wendy R. Weiser, one of the report’s co-authors, calls the voting law changes “radical” and “completely unnecessary.”

“They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people, and students,” Weiser wrote. “Often they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters.”

All of this despite little evidence of actual voter fraud, and plenty to suggest that the laws will not only cost cash-strapped states millions of dollars.

New America Media.-Jamilah King

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