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Charles reports: "Voting laws passed by Republican-led legislatures in a dozen states during the past year have sharply restricted voter-registration drives that typically target ... groups that have backed the Democratic president by wide margins."

US President Barack Obama speaks during the sixth annual Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, 04/20/12. (photo: Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the sixth annual Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, 04/20/12. (photo: Getty Images)

New Laws on Voter Registration Could Hurt Obama

By Deborah Charles, Reuters

22 April 12


New state laws designed to fight voter fraud could reduce the number of Americans signing up to vote in this year's presidential election by hundreds of thousands, a potential problem for President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

oting laws passed by Republican-led legislatures in a dozen states during the past year have sharply restricted voter-registration drives that typically target young, low-income, African-American and Hispanic voters - groups that have backed the Democratic president by wide margins.

A further 16 states are considering bills that would end voter registration on election days, impose a range of limits on groups that register voters and make it more difficult for people to sign up, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

The new laws - many of which include measures requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls - could carve into Obama's potential support in Florida, Ohio and a few other politically divided states likely to be crucial in the November 6 election, analysts say.

The analysts note that massive registration drives in 2008 helped put millions of people aged 18 to 29 on voting rolls, and that age group - which makes up roughly one-quarter of the U.S. electorate - helped propel Obama to victory, voting 2-to-1 for him.

Rock the Vote, a nationwide organization that mobilizes young voters, said the new laws would make it more difficult for the group to educate people on how to sign up to vote.

"The types of laws have varied, but state by state they've added up to the fact that it's going to be harder for young people to get registered and vote in this election cycle," said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.

"We have a very busy year ahead of us, and a very important one," she added. "What a shame if we can't continue to engage this generation in the political process because these laws have made it harder."

Problems With Registrations

Rock the Vote, which registered a record 2.25 million young voters in 2008, has set a considerably lower target this year: 1.5 million. The group says the drop is because of the new laws as well as the fact that unlike 2008, this election year has had a competitive primary contest only among Republicans.

The League of Women Voters also could sign up fewer voters this year, partly because it has joined Rock the Vote in suspending voter registration drives in Florida as the groups challenge that state's new restrictions in court.

Another factor expected to drive down voter registration totals this year: the absence of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which registered more than 1 million mostly low-income voters in 2008.

Thousands of those registrations were for people who did not exist, submitted by ACORN-hired workers who were paid based on how many names they registered to vote.

The scandal helped lead to the demise of ACORN and inspire some of the anti-fraud laws affecting registration drives this year.

The episode involving ACORN, which folded in 2010 after it lost federal funding, showed a need for the new anti-fraud laws, said Brian Darling, a senior fellow for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Like other conservatives, Darling rejected the notion that Republican-led legislatures had passed the laws to try to prevent certain groups from voting.

"There have been problems of voters being registered who weren't real voters," Darling said. "Just look at the ACORN scandal."

The new laws have led to a flurry of lawsuits across the country.

Florida's Law Draws Fire

The new anti-fraud election laws vary from state to state, but Florida's has received much attention largely because the state will be crucial in determining the winner of the November 6 presidential election.

Last May, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, signed a law that imposes tough new restrictions on third-party groups if they do not turn in voter registration forms quickly.

State legislators in Florida - the state at the center of the disputed 2000 presidential election won by Republican George W. Bush - said the law was aimed at preventing fraud and adding credibility to elections.

But the groups that try to register voters say the law - which requires the groups to register with the state and turn in voter forms within 48 hours of obtaining them or face at least $5,000 in fines - are onerous and discriminatory.

The law also cuts the number of days for early voting and no longer allows voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Some activists said that unfairly targeted blacks and Hispanics, who went to the polls in large numbers the Sunday before Election Day in 2008 through programs called "Pews to the Polls" and "Souls to the Polls.

In Ohio, another crucial state in the election, the Obama campaign has asked supporters to rally against a proposal to curtail early voting, arguing weekend polling hours allow many workers more of a chance to vote.

Complications in Wisconsin

Other states' voting laws complicate things for groups seeking to register voters.

In Wisconsin, new laws require licensing for anyone who registers someone else to vote, and the rules for licensing vary in the state's 1,800 municipalities.

That could mean a volunteer for a voting drive in a school district would have to take a course and get licensed in a dozen different municipalities in that one school district, said Jeannette Senecal, director of elections for the League of Women Voters.

Senecal called Florida's law the most "extreme" of the new regulations. She said the impact was already being felt across the state, with about 81,000 fewer voters registered this year than at the same time in 2008.

"Since they're making it more difficult for organizations like ourselves to participate in the process," Senecal said, "it does cut back on the amount of opportunity that we have to register these unregistered voters."

Senior Obama campaign officials would not comment. But in some states, the campaign began its own voter registration efforts earlier than it did in 2008, to try to make up for the impact of the new laws.

The Heritage Foundation's Darling said Democrats and voter registration groups were overplaying the impact of the new laws.

"Voter registration drives are great and all that, but it's not the end-all and be-all of voting," he said. "If (people are)going to vote, they should take the initiative to go register themselves." your social media marketing partner


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+18 # barbaratodish 2012-04-22 15:52
It seems like overkill to make voter registration even harder, considering the voting machines are (mostly) rigged!
+8 # BradFromSalem 2012-04-23 07:31
The Right Wing has never employed subtlety as a tool. How could they, they don't even know that such a thing exists.
+17 # universlman 2012-04-22 17:31
Seems like voting has stopped being a right, and has become a privilege.
+3 # John Locke 2012-04-22 23:52
Where is congress, asleep at the wheel, we have voting laws that supersede State laws, why aren't our congress men and women acting to protect this right...have they also abandoned it to the republicans...i s this what both parties really want...?

This has been going on for years, why has congress not stopped it?
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-04-22 21:06
Surprise, surprise...

What does this writer think was the idea and the push to pass them? Has she been living on some other planet?
-17 # MidwestTom 2012-04-22 21:54
Democracy requires an educated involved electorate, people who have no idea no who is president now or who the candidates are or what they stand for should not be voting. According to Pew Research 9% of American voters cannot answer very basic political questions like who is President. We should have ideas that appeal to intelligent informed voters and not depend on getting people who only vote as they are told.
+5 # robbeygay 2012-04-22 23:02
Great Republican plan, are you one of them Tom?

If not remember Aussie Rob Idea, and all Aussie citizens over 18 must vote. For not voting, without good reason or prior apoproval, it's pay a fine.

Believe me with a $100 fine for not attending,smart ens people up to go to the voting station. If you want neither you can spoil the vote, but never give away the right to a say, as small as it may appear, that;s a democracy right.

Communism lets 5mn members vote for 90mn citizens, then we all get to stay home and never listen to political speaches.

Have you evere watched ants remove a massive carcase? Or babies shift a 10 ton sand pile? That is if the builders are too slow using? Baby's don't even need a spoon & pail they have, hands, skin, pockets etc., they will surely move it in time.

May I suggest:- to solve the Capitalist Republican automatic greater vote support as the general rule, USA needs to adopt the Australian compulsory preferential voting system.

Then all votes get counted, and the carefree vote, even if they don't have some particular barrow to push.

Still the lowest class undereducated votes fail for want of a formality more often, higher classes have a better vote count certainty all the same.
+6 # Regina 2012-04-23 01:01
Tom: You aren't really seeking an educated electorate. You're out to restrict voting eligibility to those who will vote your way -- not exactly one of the principles on which the country was founded. As for education, your statement needs some grammatical corrections. 'Nuff said.
-12 # Robt Eagle 2012-04-23 13:10
Regina, so you are admitting that these groups being persecuted are not cpable of obtainin g a driver's license or any id with a picture on it, but they can figure out how to use a cell phone and pay for the monthly charges? Come on get real, any real American can easily get a valid picture ID, Obama wants the illegal folks to be able to vote and have the election go his way. Stop the BS rhetoric.
+6 # bluepilgrim 2012-04-23 16:08
In Arizona it costs money, so you have to be able to afford the ID.
You also have to be able to get to a places which issues one, which can be difficult.

The idea that Obama, or anyone want illegal immigrants to vote, or that it's a problem, is pure deceptive nonsense.

BTW -- there are programs, such as SafeLink, which lets the poor get and use a cell phone for free.

Why does the right wing hate democracy so much? (As if I didn't know...)
+6 # BradFromSalem 2012-04-23 07:45

You are blaming the victims as an excuse to limit their right to vote?!

The so called ignorant people you wrote about are the victims of 40+ years of defunding education. They are victims of the movement that is turning our public school students into parrots trained only to pass a test of fact memorization of context and content free information.

They are victims of our higher education system becoming a tool used to enslave the educated to the banks.

The problem goes much deeper than the measly 9% that do not know who is President. The problem is that our kids are not being taught to think. They are less and less being provided with the tools, role models and the time to think creatively and constructively.

Take away their vote, ignorant they may be, what incentive is left to fix a root problem in our democracy? Because some people are ignorant, does not make them stupid; so in spite of it all we need to find a way to reach them with strong Progressive ideals and strong Progressive message.
+6 # tbcrawford 2012-04-23 10:41
Rather than deny people their rights, why not work for the expansion of civics education. Walk in another's shoes; did it occur to you that the sources of information available to many (at least 9%) is not easily accessible; the very poor, homeless, countless others who have little education, not to mentioned new exclusive laws and little promotion of registration itself! So Tom, rather than sitting on your high, self-congratula tory self, I find you fail in civic responsibility and in doing so you eventually will risk your own democratic right to vote
+2 # Kimberly999 2012-04-24 13:47
According to most polls, this idea would leave many Fox viewers out in the cold as well.
+6 # robbeygay 2012-04-22 22:39
If the Democrats and worker side, ever get a majority in both houses and the Presidence at the same moment the first law they need yto pass is a counter-measure , and there is only one worth mentioning. Women are not the problem, they suffer as do men, often moreso.

May I suggest to solve the Capitalist Republican automatic greater vote support as a general rule, USA needs to adopt the Australian compulsory preferential voting system, then all votes get counted, and the carefree vote even if they don't have some particular barrow to push. Still the lowest class undereducated votes fail for want of a formality more often, higher classes have a better vote count certainty all the same.
+4 # robbeygay 2012-04-22 23:28
Add to my earlier comments:-
Australians over 18 must vote, no registering traumas it comes with birth and death registry names and tax office links. You don't vote without excuse you get fined. Hits for $100 you won't fail to vote. Never give that right away, that democratic birth right. You can spoil your vote if you really want neither and stir. But keep that democratic right to a say. You think you are insignificant to the count?

Have you ever watched ants move a massive carcas. or Babies move a builders 10 ton sand pile, if he's slow. They need no spoon or pail, pockets, clothes, even skin moves that sand.

Don't waive your democracy rights, or be communist nationals, there the 5mn party members vote for the 90mn citizens.
+3 # grouchy 2012-04-23 01:31
When Rove bailed out of the Bushie Bunch prior Bush leaving office, I immediately said "ANTICIPATE ROVE". What that meant was in no way was he retiring but shifting out to some other format to stew his evil brews. He and his ilk have always been excellent at finding ways to nibble away at the votes of their opposition and they have hatched any number of schemes for this up coming election. Most of these could have been anticipated if someone had just followed happenings and thought a bit. So we can now witness that which have been hatched. And let's see if the Democrats even try to cut these schemes off at the pass! I'll bet not.
+3 # brianf 2012-04-23 11:39
I don't think there has been a single documented case of anyone improperly registered to vote by Acorn actually voting. These were done by unscrupulous workers to make money, not to actually vote. In fact, every time that I've heard of people asking these Republicans to show proof that people are voting illegally, they have not been able to produce a single case. Maybe there are a few documented cases, but if so, the number is way too small to affect an election, and I would bet the number of illegitimate Republican votes is equal or greater than illegitimate Democrat votes.

If I'm wrong, please show me the proof. Otherwise, the above proves the purpose of these laws is to take legitimate votes away from Democrats. They should all be immediately struck down as unconstitutiona l. Why isn't Holder doing his job? Is he a Republican?
+2 # jwb110 2012-04-23 14:44
This is going to cause a backlash for the GOP and I don't think it will work because there will probably be a greater turnout in the upcoming election.
The President's re-election is not s fait accompli but I think that most Americans know when they are being snookered.
0 # brianf 2012-04-24 08:48
I don't think it will cause a backlash, because the Democrats are pretty much ignoring the issue. They need to bring it up over and over and use it to motivate those voters whose vote have not been stolen if they want it to help them. They are doing a better job with Citizens United, but so many people make up their minds at the last minute based on the negative ads they happen to see that I think the chances of Romney beating Obama are very good.

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