Voter suppression is the backdrop for 2012 election


A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice shines the spotlight on a range of new state laws that make it more difficult to vote, particularly for poor and minority voters.

These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states, it is clear that:

  • 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.

States have changed their laws so rapidly that no single analysis has assessed the overall impact of such moves. Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters at a time when the United States continues to turn out less than two thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.

In Colorado, since Secretary of State Scott Gessler was elected last year, he has made a steady push to reduce the number of people who vote. His efforts in the legislature to require photo ID to vote were turned back. His claims that thousands vote fraudulently in the state were never proven. His efforts to prevent counties from sending ballots to inactive voters received a temporary setback last week.

Scot Kersgaard contributed to this article.

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