-By Katy Hall
May 15, 2012- A wave of Republican-sponsored laws restricting who can and cannot vote may mean that fewer Democrats, especially those who are low-income or minorities, vote in the 2012 presidential election.
Since the beginning of 2011, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia have passed, or have plans to pass, restrictive voting laws. More than 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will come from these states, the Brennan Center reported in March. Republican lawmakers argue that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but fewer than 100 people have been charged with voter fraud in the past five years, according to the Washington Post.
In 2011, former President Bill Clinton condemned the laws for disenfranchising Democrats, describing them as "the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time."
"There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today," he said.
There are several types of voting laws that make it harder for certain people to vote. Photo ID laws, passed in eight states last year, require voters to show a government-issued photo ID to vote or to register to vote. Eleven percent of American citizens do not have a government-issued photo IDs, according to the Brennan Center, and those without IDs are more likely to be minorities or low-income. Restrictions on absentee and early voting, proof of citizenship laws and voter registration obstacles are also types of legislation that could prevent millions of eligible Americans from voting in November.
Some laws have drawn aggressive pushback from the U.S. Department of Justice, which blocked photo ID laws in Texas and South Carolina on the grounds that they discriminate against non-white voters, but they are not the only laws that have been challenged. Here are some of the laws that have stirred up the most anger:
Florida eliminates early voting on Sundays
Tensions run high in Florida, a critical battleground state that passed an election law last year with several contested provisions. One bans a decade-long practice of early voting on Sundays before the election — a window when as many as 30 percent of black people have previously voted after attending church in a "souls to the polls" movement. Republican lawmakers claim the provision is meant to reduce election fraud, but some black Democrats say the calculation is more sinister.
“It’s my feeling it was done deliberately, a premeditated design, to suppress the vote of African-Americans in this country because it’s playing out all over the nation in every state. It was intentional,” Florida Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) said.
Photo ID firestorm rocks South Carolina
The Justice Department dealt a blow to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, arguing that it discriminated along racial lines. Haley's administration fired back with a lawsuit that is expected to be decided in September.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said earlier this month that Republicans hope to tip the outcome of the presidential election by lowering voter turnout by 1 percent in each of nine states that have passed voter ID laws, the West Ashley Patch reports.
"I know nothing has changed yet," he said. "But I just do not trust the judiciary that we're operating under."