Key voting issues
To Republicans, a swath of tough new voting laws across 31 states is needed to cut down on “fraud” by illegal voters impersonating those who are dead or have moved elsewhere.
To Democrats, it’s a campaign to disenfranchise minority groups, the poor and elderly: people most likely to vote for Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
Court battles have pushed back some restrictions, but others will kick in after the current elections. Older U.S. voting rules allow would-be voters to be identified by documents other than standard photo ID, or poll workers who know them, and sign affidavits.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was concerned enough about reports from human rights groups to send a team of observers to report on the American polls — a move met with anger from Texas’s attorney-general, who threatened to arrest any observers who come within 100 feet of a polling entrance.
Tighter rules include:
Restrictive voter ID: Five states including Virginia, New Hampshire and Kansas made rules tightening regulations, and seven states have strict photo ID rules that stop voters from casting ballots without it. “Approximately 10 per cent of voting-age Americans today do not have driver’s licences or state-issued non-driver’s photo ID,” says the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Many more don’t have ID featuring their current address.
In some states voters can get “provisional ballots” without the regulation ID. But their ballots will not be counted until they return a few days later with one of the specified documents.
Early voting reductions: Crucial swing states Florida and Wisconsin made rules rolling back some early voting, but Ohio’s were blocked by the court. Three other states passed such laws.
Ex-con votes: Florida, Iowa and South Dakota made it harder to restore voting rights lost by those with criminal convictions.
Voter registration barriers: Laws restricting organized registration drives passed in Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, and Florida’s was partially blocked by court.
Sources: New York Times, The Hill, Brennan Center for Justice