Will new voter identification laws prevent hundreds of thousands of people from casting ballots in the upcoming presidential election? Or will the new laws help stop voter fraud?
It's a starkly red and blue issue. Republicans say the laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, and they have pushed the laws through 11 state legislatures over the past two years. Thirty-one states now require voters to show identification at the polls.
Democrats say the laws will disenfranchise elderly and minority voters, who tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
Texas Voter ID Law
This week President Obama's Justice Department is fighting the state of Texas in a Washington DC district court over the 2011 Texas Voter ID law. Attorney General Eric Holder this week said the law could keep 1.4 million Texans from voting.
Texas is one of 16 states with a history of voter discrimination that must receive pre-clearance from the Department of Justice to change its voting system. DOJ denied the change, saying the law violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minorities. Texas is now asking a three-judge panel to approve the change in a case that could end up in the Supreme Court.
Pennsylvania Voter ID Law
Pennsylvania also passed a new voter ID law. According to an Associated Press report, it could prevent up to 750,000 people, who don't currently have government-issued identifications from voting.
Pennsylvania's House majority leader, Republican Mike Turzai, in a speech to the state’s Republican committee, said they had passed the law so that Mitt Romney could win the state, seeming to bolster the argument that the laws are politically-motivated.
Florida's Battle With The Justice Department
And Florida is locked in a battle with the Justice Department over purging voter rolls.
Florida compiled a list of 180,000 people on voter rolls that the state believed to be non-citizens, and were preparing to send that information out to county election supervisors so they could purge those people from the lists.
The Justice Department said they couldn't purge voters close to an election day, and there were widespread concerns over the accuracy of the list.
A federal judge sided with Florida, saying that the state could go ahead with the voter purge, since it was trying to purge people who never belonged on the voter rolls in the first place, instead of trying to clear people, who might have moved out of the area or hadn't voted in recent elections.
The purge is on hold for now, as Florida, and other states, like Colorado, are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to release its list of non-citizens. Florida says that information will help the state make its list of ineligible voters more accurate.
Regardless of the outcome of these individual cases, it's a pitched battle between Democrats and Republicans.
"Voter ID laws have been with us for years, it will be with us for years to come," said Doug Chapin of the University of Minnesota's Program for Excellence in Election Administration.
- Doug Chapin, University of Minnesota's Program for Excellence in Election Administration
This segment aired on July 12, 2012.
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