New Voter ID Laws Could Hurt Obama
New state laws that many have passed to curb voter fraud could reduce the number of Americans signing up to vote in this year’s presidential election by hundreds of thousands, a potential problem for President Barack Obama’s re-election bid. New voter laws have been passed in many Republican controlled states, and they have sharply restricted voter-registration drives that typically target young, low-income, African-American and Hispanic voters – groups that have backed the Democratic president by wide margins.
And still there are another 16 states considering passage of similar laws, that would end voter registration on election days, impose a range of limits on groups that register voters and make it more difficult for people to sign up, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
What has so many Democrats in an uproar is that fact that many of the new laws require a voter to have a photo id at the polls, and this could hurt Obama in Florida and Ohio, and a few other politically divided states likely to be crucial in the November 6 election.
In 2008, the massage drive to register voters helped put millions of people aged 18 to 29 on voting rolls, and that age group – which makes up roughly one-quarter of the U.S. electorate – helped propel Obama to victory, voting 2-to-1 for him. Rock the Vote, a nationwide organization that mobilizes young voters, said the new laws would make it more difficult for the group to educate people on how to sign up to vote.
“The types of laws have varied, but state by state they’ve added up to the fact that it’s going to be harder for young people to get registered and vote in this election cycle,” said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.
“We have a very busy year ahead of us, and a very important one,” she added. “What a shame if we can’t continue to engage this generation in the political process because these laws have made it harder.”
In 2008, Rock the Vote registered 2.25 million young people, but this year, only about 1.5 million have registered. The group says the drop is because of the new laws as well as the fact that unlike 2008, this election year has had a competitive primary contest only among Republicans. And the League of Women Voters also could sign up fewer voters this year, partly because it has joined Rock the Vote in suspending voter registration drives in Florida as the groups challenge that state’s new restrictions in court.
Also what contributes to a lower registration rate, we no longer have ACORN helping. If you remember, back then, thousands of those registered didn’t exist. The workers from ACORN were paid by how many names they signed up. The scandal helped lead to the demise of ACORN and inspire some of the anti-fraud laws affecting registration drives this year.
After the exposure of fraud, in 2010, it was the demise of ACORN, as the organization lost federal funding. Brian Darling, a senior fellow for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation says, the notion that Republican-led legislatures had passed the laws to try to prevent certain groups from voting.
“There have been problems of voters being registered who weren’t real voters,” Darling said. “Just look at the ACORN scandal.”
These voter ID laws have led many legal challenges across the country. But Florida’s law has really drawn anger, mostly because, this state may possibly be a decider in the November presidential election. Last May, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, signed a law that imposes tough new restrictions on third-party groups if they do not turn in voter registration forms quickly.
And the groups that try to register voters say the law – which requires the groups to register with the state and turn in voter forms within 48 hours of obtaining them or face at least $5,000 in fines – are onerous and discriminatory. The law also cuts the number of days for early voting and no longer allows voting on the Sunday before Election Day.
Critics are saying that unfairly targeted blacks and Hispanics, who went to the polls in large numbers the Sunday before Election Day in 2008 through programs called “Pews to the Polls” and “Souls to the Polls. In fact, stats show that more blacks voted in the 2010 election, it increased. And in Ohio, the Obama campaign wants people to protest a proposal to curtail early voting, arguing weekend polling hours allow many workers more of a chance to vote.
Besides requiring voters to show an ID before they can vote, some laws passed by the states, to cut down on fraud, makes it tougher and more complicated for groups trying to register voters, and Wisconsin is one example. In Wisconsin, new laws require licensing for anyone who registers someone else to vote, and the rules for licensing vary in the state’s 1,800 municipalities.
So what this means is that a volunteer for a voting drive in a school district would have to take a course and get licensed in a dozen different municipalities in that one school district. Jeannette Senecal, director of elections for the League of Women Voters says, “Since they’re making it more difficult for organizations like ourselves to participate in the process,” Senecal said, “it does cut back on the amount of opportunity that we have to register these unregistered voters.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Darling said Democrats and voter registration groups were overplaying the impact of the new laws.
“Voter registration drives are great and all that, but it’s not the end-all and be-all of voting,” he said. “If (people are)going to vote, they should take the initiative to go register themselves.”
Tags: a senior fellow for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, ACORN, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, Brian Darling, director of elections for the League of Women Voters, Heather Smith, Jeannette Senecal, President Barack Obama, president of Rock the Vote, Voter ID laws
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 8:00 am and is filed under Crime & Punishment, Elections and Campaigns, General, In the News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.