The Wall Street Journal published a review over the weekend of states pushing tighter elections laws.
Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, and Minnesota are all looking to increase voter identification requirements. Kansas and South Carolina already have, and the latter is waiting for the Justice Department to approve the changes. Iowa and Oklahoma are also looking to tighten their election systems. Supporters say the measures will help ensure the “integrity” of elections, while opponents argue they will make it harder for some people – particularly minorities, the poor, and the elderly – to vote. Sound familiar?
“2012 is shaping up to be a real battleground for voters,” said Wendy Weiser, who directs the democracy program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, a research group that opposes the stricter ID measures.
Supporters say the tougher requirements will help ensure elections are conducted fairly. In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday signed a photo-ID bill that she said would improve the state’s “integrity, accountability and transparency.”
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said the laws “are really another form of a poll tax.” The civil-rights group is pushing to have the laws repealed and may file state lawsuits claiming the laws are discriminatory, he said.
Convictions for voter fraud are rare in the U.S. Under the George W. Bush administration, the Justice Department launched a high-profile effort to root out voter fraud. From 2002 to 2005, the task force charged 95 people and convicted 55. The probe found instances of double voting, voting by noncitizens, registration fraud, vote buying and ballot forgery by an election official.
Supporters of photo-ID laws argue that voter fraud is far more widespread, but that it slips through the cracks of outdated election systems.
Florida already has a photo-ID law. Some of the most controversial parts of Florida’s new law affect voter registration (which will now be tightly regulated), the number of days of early voting, and voters’ ability to change their address at the polls.