A study released Monday found that millions voters could be kept from the polls in 2012.
The Brennan Center for Justice report, titled “Voting Law Changes in 2012” (PDF), determined that they new restrictions on who can vote, largely championed by Republican lawmakers, could suppress the the votes of more than five million young, minority, low-income, and disabled voters, all groups that tend to vote for Democrats.
“This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election,” study authors Wendy R. Weiser and Lawrence Norden wrote in their executive summary (PDF).
The report found that states that have already curtailed voting rights represent 171 of the 270 electoral votes necessary for winning the presidency. Five of the 12 likely battleground states have already cut back rights. Across the nation, 19 new voting restrictions have passed, 68 have failed and 42 more are still pending.
New Photo ID restrictions in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin could disenfranchise up to 3.2 million voters, the study found. Another 2.6 million voters could be suppressed by proof of citizenship laws, laws restricting voter registration drives, election day registration restrictions, reduced early voting and restrictions on when convicted felons may have their voting rights restored.
The motivations of the Republicans introducing these restrictions haven’t exactly been a secret.
Republican House Speaker in New Hampshire, Bill O’Brien, was caught on tape explaining why he wanted to disenfranchise young voters.
“The kids [are] coming out of the school and basically doing what I did when I was a kid: voting as a liberal,” he told a tea party group in March. “You know, that’s what kids do. They don’t have life experience and they just vote their feelings.”
Officially, Republicans claim the restrictions are meant to prevent voter fraud, although virtually no evidence of organized fraud has ever been uncovered.
Former President Bill Clinton agreed that the intentions of Republicans are clear.
“Why is all of this going on?” he asked a group of students in July. “This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”
Clinton added: “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”
Photo credit: Flickr/Julie Vazquez