Election 2012:Tough new election laws blocked or delayed
The debate over the new laws focuses mainly on whether they might deter minority and elderly voters and those in lower economic classes from casting ballots. Photo IDs, for example, can require fees that some people can’t pay. Shortening early voting days could disenfranchise minorities, particularly African-Americans who have embraced the practice in many states. Restrictions on registration drives could disproportionately affect minority populations that register at lower percentages than others.
In that view, according to University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith, the laws “have intentionally tried to crack down on the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities.”
Supporters say such concerns are overblown and that such steps are critical to keep ineligible people from voting.
“How can you be against election integrity?” said Catherine Engelbrecht, president of the Houston-based True The Vote group that is monitoring elections and challenging the validity of voter rolls in numerous states.
State and federal courts have been a major battleground over election laws. In Florida, a federal judge blocked new restrictions on voter registration drives. In Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court this week let stand a lower court’s ruling that invalidated a law shortening the number of early voting days. Judges in Florida, on the other hand, have refused to block a law reducing that state’s early voting days.
A panel of federal judges ruled that restrictive new photo ID requirements for Texas voters violated the Voting Rights Act. A federal appeals court upheld a ruling against Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote; the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review it in the coming months.
Vetoes by governors in other states have blocked new election laws. In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder angered many in his own party when he rejected a measure that, among other things, would require a photo ID to get an absentee ballot.