Fall 2016

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A Sampling of Voting Restrictions

Twenty-two states have implemented new measures that affect voter access since 2010. Most have resulted in making the process more difficult for certain groups of voters — students, seniors, working people, people of color, the poor.

Following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that weakened a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the North Carolina state legislature passed a bill that reduced the number of days of early voting, established a requirement for a photo ID to vote, eliminated preregistration of 17-year-olds before they turned 18 and disallowed people from registering and voting on the same day, among other measures. (Three of the provisions were later overturned by a federal appeals court.)

According to the Washington Post, one of the plaintiffs in a suit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law is 95-year-old Rosanell Eaton. She had to make 10 trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles, covering more than 200 miles and spending more than 20 hours to get an error corrected because the spelling of the name on her driver’s license did not match the name on her voter registration.

 In April 2016 the American Civil ­Liberties Union of Ohio and the public policy organization Demos filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State over purges in the voter rolls. Those purges would take place against voters who, for whatever reason, did not cast a ballot in three consecutive federal elections. Cleaning up voter rolls by removing ­people who have moved or have died is not uncommon, but purging people for not voting is rare. In June a federal district court judge ruled that the state had the right to purge inactive voters. An appeal was scheduled to be heard in July.

Wisconsin legislators have passed several new laws affecting elections and voters. One of the provisions was that the state would conduct a comprehensive voter education program to let ­people know which forms of identification were needed for the first time to vote in last April’s election. The legislature then declined to appropriate funds for the education program, citing lack of funding.

This year Wisconsin eliminated its special deputy registrars program through which the League of Women Voters and other organizations had registered thousands of people at senior centers, farmers markets, community fairs and high schools and colleges for four decades. Though the compromise law opened up online voter registration in exchange for the elimination of the volunteer registrars, it makes it more difficult for people without internet access or computer savviness — such as seniors and the poor — to register and vote.

According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, restrictions enacted in 19 states since 2012 could seriously impede the ability of more than 875,000 eligible Latino voters to participate in the 2016 election for president. — T.S.