Wisconsin governor to sign photo ID law Wednesday, with bills being debated in Ohio, North Carolina, and other battleground states

-By Tom Curry

May 25, 2011- After raising the alarm in 2008 that voter fraud could tip the election to Democrats, Republicans are using their victories in last fall’s gubernatorial and state legislative contests to ensure that their fears of deception at the polls don’t materialize in future elections.

In key 2012 battleground states, Republican legislators and governors have been moving to change election laws in order to deter vote fraud, or Democrats say, to limit the number of voters.

In the latest move, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, signed legislation on Wednesday that will require people to show photo identification when they vote.

Similar bills are being debated in Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Missouri, all of which were hotly contested in recent presidential elections.

If a voter ID bill is passed by the North Carolina legislature — in which both chambers are Republican controlled — Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue is poised to veto it. According to her spokeswoman Chris Mackey, Perdue has said she would "resist any bill that limits voter access."

In Texas, a voter photo ID bill is on Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s desk, undergoing review by his staff. Perry has until Monday to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. Perry designated photo ID as a high-priority item for the legislature so he seems likely to sign it.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states, including Wisconsin, request or require photo ID for voters.

Florida limits early voting window

Meanwhile in Florida, another battleground state, Republican Gov. Rick Scott last week signed a law reducing the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. It also adds new rules for voters who change addresses and imposes new requirements on groups, including labor unions, that register new voters.

Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, said the new law increased the number of early voting hours from eight hours a day to 12 possible hours in a day. He said, “We have made early voting more accessible to working voters who under the previous law, were restricted to early voting hours that primarily occurred during the common work day.”

Given that Florida is a likely battleground in the 2012 presidential contest, “potentially you would have a real effect on turnout there, but we don’t really know because there hasn’t been a lot of study done on changing the (early voting) window,” said political scientist Michael McDonald, an expert on voter turnout at George Mason University.

The Ohio House has also passed a bill to shorten the early voting period; the state Senate has yet to act.

Changing voting procedures could have an effect on who votes, not only in the presidential election but in Senate contests next year in Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the head of the Democratic Governors Association, said the Wisconsin law “is clearly targeted at Democratic voters” and “it’s no coincidence that these bills are getting rammed through in key swing states just in time for the 2012 election.”



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