-By Deborah Charles
April 5, 2012- Liberal activists on Wednesday criticized new voter registration requirements in dozens of states, saying millions of people could be deterred from voting in the November presidential election – a claim their opponents disputed.
The Center for American Progress issued a report that said new barriers to voting have been enacted by conservative state legislatures with the aim of disenfranchising voters from among certain groups such as low-income voters, minorities and college students. Those constituencies have tended to favor Democrats.
"The right to vote is under attack all across our country," the group said in a report that launched the latest salvo in the growing war of racially tinged rhetoric over new voter ID requirements.
Conservative groups and Republican-led state legislatures that have proposed the new rules say they will help ensure fair voting and cut back on fraud. They vehemently disagreed with the report.
"This is clearly a campaign by the left to demonize Republicans, to play the race card and to use this as an issue to make believe that Republicans are suppressing minority voters, which is clearly not the case," said Brian Darling, senior fellow for government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Since 2011, nine states have passed strict new photo identification requirements while two dozen others have introduced legislation that would require voters to show a picture ID card to vote. Other states have passed laws that shorten an early voting period and make it tougher to register.
These changes could impact minorities in particular, the Center for American Progress report said, since as many as 25 percent of blacks do not possess a valid form of government-issued ID, compared to 11 percent on average for all races.
The new laws have led to a flurry of lawsuits across the country, and it is unclear how many will have gone into effect in time to play a role in the 2012 election.