A new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law finds that as many as five million voters will be adversely affected in the 2012 election by new restrictive state voting laws.
The study looks at 19 laws and two executive actions that were enacted during the last year in 14 states, all of which make it more difficult for citizens to vote. In addition, the report considers the effects of at least 42 bills that are still pending, and an estimated 68 more that were introduced but failed to pass. Such laws include: requirements for government-issued ID’s and proof of citizenship; restrictions on voter registration; reduction of early and absentee voting; and restrictions on the rights of citizens with felony convictions to vote.
“This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections,” said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center.
Using six indicators, the study estimates that more than five million voters will be impacted in the upcoming 2012 election. The largest proportion of affected voters is the estimated 3.2 million citizens whom do not meet the new photo ID requirements. By the 2012 election, five states will have new laws in effect requiring all voters to present a state-issued photo ID at the polls.
“These voting law changes are radical and completely unnecessary. They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people, and students. Often they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters,” said Wendy R. Weiser, co-author of the report and director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center.
Those in support of the new laws regard them as necessary to address problems of voter fraud and ballot security. Opponents argue that voter fraud is rare, and such laws severely limit what is a fundamental right of every American – the right to vote.