-by Pam Fessler
July 18, 2011- Voters going to the polls next year — and even some this year — will encounter a lot of new rules. Photo ID requirements and fewer options for early voting are among the biggest changes.
They're part of a wave of new laws enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures this year. Supporters say the rules are needed to ensure honest elections.
But Democrats say it's part of a concerted GOP campaign to suppress the vote. They say minorities, students, the poor and disabled — those most likely to vote Democratic — will be hurt the most.
Seven states so far this year have enacted new laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering similar requirements, and several other states already have them on the books.
Other states have placed restrictions on voter registration drives, imposed new requirements for voters to show proof of citizenship, or reduced the amount of time for early voting.
"This is about putting up obstacles to legal voters being able to exercise the franchise," says Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, an advocacy group that opposes the changes. "That is the scheme that the Republicans have concocted on this."
Ross says tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters lack the photo ID that will now be required in that state. He says many of them will also have difficulty traveling to motor vehicle offices to get free ID cards available under the law.
All this, he adds, was created to solve a problem that doesn't exist.