“It all hits at the groups that had higher turnout and higher registration in 2008,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights lawyer who co-directs the Advancement Project, which has been tracking the new regulations.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering the latest, and perhaps most potent, legislation, a measure that would divvy up electoral votes by congressional district rather than use the winner-takes-all approach. The change would almost ensure a net gain of 20 to 24 GOP electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election.
“This is a very straightforward attempt to more closely conform the Electoral College process . . . with the will of the people,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.
He and Republican legislators in other states say the changes are necessary to prevent voter fraud and to make elections more fair. But voting rights groups and Democrats have decried the measures as attempts to suppress votes and swing elections.
“It just seems like a partisan setup [that is] all about who is going to be in the White House in 2012,” said Browne-Dianis, whose group has issued a report arguing that the vote among young people and minorities is being suppressed. “This really is the worst rollback of voting rights that we’ve seen in a century.”
This year, more than 30 states debated changes to their voting laws. A dozen passed more restrictive rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, although Democratic governors in four states vetoed them. Florida and Ohio will cut nearly in half the number of days for early voting, and Florida lawmakers reversed rules that had made it easier for former felons to vote.
“If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote,” Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said in the spring when she signed the bill into law in South Carolina.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, who pushed for new voting restrictions, said that the state received 221 reports of voter fraud in 1997 and 2010.
“We all want certainty that our elections are not stolen,” Kobach said. “This is an issue where most Americans recognize that a photo ID is a part of American life today. . . . So the argument that somehow it disenfranchises people is simply not true.”
David Norcross, chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, said problems with ACORN, a left-leaning organizing and voter-registration group that shut down last year, “made the whole thing a national issue” and “now is our opportunity.”