Will It Be Harder to Vote This Year Where You Live?

BlogHer Original Post

"It Takes One," a new initiative of the Obama campaign debuts today with a simple message: get people involved, get out the vote. As Michelle Obama says in her video, a successful reelection will all come down to new votes, in addition to the ones he received in the last election. The campaign is working to make sure that voters were under 18 in 2008 get registered -- especially since younger voters tend to vote Democrat. "It Takes One" focuses on encouraging Obama supporters to bring people to the polls, bring friends canvasing, and inspire others to get involved; all in the name of getting those key votes in what polls show will be a close election. It's the buddy system, political style.

Underlying the Obama campaign's message to get people involved is a series of recent changes and challenges to voter registration and election laws, many of which may it more difficult to get some voters counted this election. Here's a roundup of election law stories that are heating up as November approaches.

Florida

The Department of Homeland Security is making its database available to Florida election officials to allow that state to cull out non-citizens from their voter database. An initial review of the voter rolls against records from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles generated an initial list of 182,000 voters the state suspected of being noncitizens, though Politifact estimates the number considered for purging was closer to 2,600 Critics have claimed that the initial list contained many verifiable citizens, and that Latino voters are disproportionally affected by possibility that legal citizens may be accidentally barred from voting come Election Day.

In March 2011, Florida legislators passed an election bill that, among other changes, reduced the number of early voting days, including the Sunday before Election Day -- a day known as "Souls to the Polls," on which the majority of early voters in 2008 were African-American and Hispanic. Another component of the election bill requires groups that register voters to turn in completed forms within 48 hours or be assessed a $50 fine. According to Politifact, "Republicans said that the new rules were necessary to prevent fraud, while Democrats said it would suppress the minority vote."

Ohio

Yesterday, Obama's campaign committee sued the state of Ohio for an election law, signed by Governor John Kasich (R), that eliminates some early voting days for the general public but not for military and overseas voters. This is the first legal challenge of an election law by the Obama campaign The Kansas City Star reports that about 1.7 million people voted in early in Ohio in 2008, and some 100,000 of those voted during the eliminated three days.

Wisconsin

A judge overturned Wisconsin's photo ID requirement Tuesday, ordering a permanent bar on the enforcement of Act 23, passed by the state legislature in 2011.

Texas

A three-judge panel is deliberating Texas' voter ID law, passed last year. Lawyers for the Justice Department challenged the law, saying it disenfranchises up to 1.5 million voters who lack a valid photo ID. The state also petitioned the Department of Homeland Security for access to its database yesterday, following Florida's successful request.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania passed a voter ID law in March that may affect up to 9% of the state's inhabitants come Election Day Bloomburg estimated earlier this month. Residents without a photo ID or an alternative state ID will not be able to vote.

California

A law signed last April by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has changed prisoners' eligibility to vote, affecting 85,000 possible voters who have been convicted of a low-level felony but are not currently in prison, according to the News21 Blog.

Other States

10 states are mirroring Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by requiring photo ID this year. The Brennan Center of Justice at the New York University School of Law estimated today that 500,000 U.S. citizens may be unable to vote come Election Day because they don't own proper ID and would have a difficult time getting one in order to vote.

In May, a federal court of appeals upheld Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after challenges by activists and Republican attorneys general in various states. The Washington Post reported that the decision "set the stage for consideration by a Supreme Court whose majority is skeptical about the law’s continued viability" and reported that the court could hear the case this fall.

All these changes disproportionally affect senior citizens, women, and people of color. A study found that women over 55 are the most likely to vote early. People of color are less likely to have a photo ID than the general population.

On the other side is a stride forward this week in using technology to make voter registration easier (if you have access to the internet, anyway). CNN reported yesterday that Washington State will become the first state to allow residents to register to vote via Facebook:

Facebook, Washington state and Microsoft have teamed up to create an app that allows users to register on the social media site through the state's new "MyVote" app. The effort came about last fall when Microsoft approached Washington state after Facebook contacted the software giant with the idea.

Are you a registered voter? Would any of these laws affect you if you lived in these states; for instance, do you vote early, or do you not hold a photo ID? What do you think about states changing election laws: Do you think they do more good or possible harm? Or do you think it's all partisan electioneering?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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