Study Finds That New Voting Laws Could Affect Millions of Voters

A Brennan Center study finds that new voting laws could prevent more than five million voters from casting ballots next year.

A study released by the Brennan Center for Justice this week predicts that new laws that require voters to present photo IDs at the polls, shorten early voting periods and impose new restrictions on voter registration drives could “make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”


The center used 19 laws and two executive orders that passed in 14 states to prepare its analysis. In addition to potentially disenfranchising millions of voters, the states that have already implemented the new rules will provide 171 of the 270 electoral votes a candidate needs to win the presidency in 2012. Five of 12 likely battleground states, the study also found, have already enacted restrictions and may pass additional legislation, and two others are considering new restrictions.


Thirty-five states introduced legislation this year requiring voters to show a photo ID and it represents the biggest impediment, the study found. The Brennan Center estimates that 11 percent of potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID cards and, as a result, 3.2 million voters would be affected. Although states say they will provide the cards at no charge, some people may have difficulty pulling together the necessary documentation. Just this week, a 96-year-old African-American woman in Chattanooga who tried to comply with her state’s new law was denied the necessary ID card because she didn’t have a copy of her marriage certificate to confirm her identity.


In addition, said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center, in an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, the new laws appear to be politically aimed at certain voters, including students, the elderly and minorities.


Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, for example, recently signed a law that no longer allows people to use their University of Texas ID to vote, but they can use their gun license. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has signed a law that now prohibits people from voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a tradition followed by many African-American churches. Waldman said that ending the practice would have a disparate effect on minority communities.

(Photo: Frank Polich/GettyImages)

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