Florida and other GOP-dominated states’ new elections rules could shut out 5 million voters next yearby Dara Kam | October 3rd, 2011
Florida and more than a dozen other states’ new elections laws intended to clamp down on voting fraud could keep 5 million Americans from voting in next year’s presidential election, a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice found.
As in Florida, the laws require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots, cut back on early voting days or impose restrictions on voter registration drives. Florida’s new election law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott includes all of those elements and more.
The ACLU and other groups filed a federal lawsuit in June against Scott’s administration over the elections laws changes. The groups and the Brennan Center also asked the Justice Department to reject the most controversial provisions of the law. Late in July, Secretary of State Kurt Browning sidestepped the DOJ and instead asked a federal three-judge panel to sign off on those four portions being challenged in the lawsuit. Federal approval is required for five Florida counties under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Brennan Center analysis found that the new laws, including Florida’s, could have a significant impact on next year’s presidential election because the changes will primarily impact minority and low-income voters who tend to vote for Democrats. Florida’s law could also make it more difficult for college and university students – who played a key role in President Obama’s 2008 victory – to vote.
“This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections,” Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement released with the new study. “In 2012 we should make it easier for every eligible citizen to vote. Instead, we have made it far harder for too many. Partisans should not try to tilt the electoral playing field in this way.”