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It is Harder to Vote in America than it was in 2008 Print E-mail

New report shows that state lawmakers have created more hurdles to voting than at any period since the Civil Rights Era

August 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Voting has become more difficult in the last four years, says a new report from the nonprofit voting rights organization Project Vote. Laws Against Voting: State Statutes that Restrict Participation in 2012 shows that state legislatures have passed unnecessary election restrictions that make it harder for all Americans—particularly low-income and minority citizens—to register and vote.

Laws Against Voting
presents a clear picture of legislative hurdles to voting in all 50 states, and particularly of the onslaught of harmful election legislation that has swept the nation since 2008. Focusing on four major areas—voter ID, proof-of-citizenship, voter registration, and felon disenfranchisement—the report provides a timely, comprehensive guide to new and existing laws in all 50 states that could have a devastating impact on registration and turnout in November.

“Outmoded, excessively bureaucratic, and often politically motivated, these measures make it harder to vote in America today than at any time in recent decades,” writes report author Erin Ferns Lee.

The 2008 presidential election saw a surge in participation from historically underrepresented Americans, including low-income Americans, minority citizens, and youth. The 2008 electorate was the most proportionately representative in American history, but in the wake of that surge America has experienced what many voting rights advocates have called the worst coordinated attack on voting rights since the Jim Crow era. Partisan legislators have passed a wave of repressive and regressive legislation that threatens to suppress the very groups that made such representational gains in 2008.

  • Overall, 23 states have overly restrictive or punitive laws that have the capacity to hinder or halt voter registration efforts, which are particularly important to low-income and minority communities.

  • Seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia—have laws that make it harder to register and stay registered through excessive proof-of-citizenship requirements.

  • At least two-dozen states have voter ID laws stricter than federal requirements, and five states—Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee—will require every voter to show valid, government-issued photo ID to vote in November.

  • Four million American citizens who have paid their debt to society are prevented from participating in our democracy because of restrictive felon disenfranchisement laws in 35 states.

“In recent years, partisan lawmakers have created an environment that makes voting more confusing, more intimidating, and more expensive,” said Project Vote Executive Director Michael Slater. “Voter ID laws mean that low-income Americans are effectively taxed for wanting to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  New citizens are harassed and intimidated, and voter registration has become so fraught with legal peril that a schoolteacher can be arrested for helping to register her own students.”

Laws Against Voting is designed to help all stakeholders navigate these confusing waters. Voters can use the report as a guide on what to look out for when registering or voting in their state; reporters can use it to understand the breadth of voter suppression laws that may affect voters in 2012; and advocates can use it to determine how to plan voter mobilization efforts and monitor potential problems at the polls.

“In 2008, it was all about getting everyone out to vote, but the 2012 election cycle has seen one attempt after another to limit access to the polls, in the form of bad laws, wrongful purges, and attacks on early voting,” said Slater. “This trend towards voter suppression needs to end, and lawmakers and election officials need to focus their energies instead on making sure all eligible Americans can register, vote, and have their ballots counted.”

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