Republicans Besieging Voting Rights in at Least 20 States

Polling place sign

Polling place signRepublicans are now pushing for more restrictions on voting rights in at least 20 states in a bid to prevent “voter fraud.” Critics of the measures, which include tougher voter ID legislation, multiple voter-registration restrictions, and a shorter early voting period, say this a veiled attack on voting rights.

The restrictions came a few weeks after president Donald Trump pledged to order a massive investigation into the colossal voter fraud that allegedly deprived him of the popular vote.

The new rules are in the making in states such as Indiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Maine, and Iowa. These five states now want to require from voters to show an ID at the polls. New Hampshire and Iowa want to remove Election Day registration and make it harder for college students to cast a ballot. Texas thinks the period for early voting is too long.

GOP lawmakers say that the measures will help curb voter fraud and boost Americans’ trust in the elections. Critics, on the other hand, cite research that found in-person fraud is very unlikely. Critics also say that the restrictions will just hurt minorities, the poor, and college students – three groups that overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The new rules will also affect the elderly.

Democrats are concerned that the U.S. Justice Department’s new chief Jeff Sessions will do nothing to hamper these plans. Myrna Perez of the New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice thinks Republicans try to “manipulate the system” to work in their favor. Perez said that the GOP tries to control who can vote and who can’t.

Brennan Center, however, acknowledged that in some parts of the country there are efforts to streamline the voting process. These measures include automatic voter registration and a longer period for early voting. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is already backing a bill that would automatically register New Yorkers based on their driver licenses and expand early voting to 12 days.

The GOP was first able to set restrictions on voting rights in 2013, when the Supreme Court shut down a provision in the Voting Rights Act that forced specific states to get the DOJ’s approval before setting the restrictions. Last year, voters in more than a dozen states faced multiple restrictions as the federal protections were gone.

Iowa said that the new legislation would provide voters with photo identification cards and will revamp the election system’s technology. The Iowa Secretary of State’s office described the proposed measures as “commonsense.”

New Hampshire Republicans, on the other hand, want to scrap same-day registration and set a residency requirement which will likely bar college students from voting. As a result, a voter will be able to vote in the state only if he considers the state his home.

Nevertheless, before the 2016 presidential election, federal courts struck down several voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina. The cases however are on their way to the Supreme Court and voting rights advocates are concerned Sessions will undo Obama administration’s efforts to fight the restrictions.
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