GOP lawmakers and governors in a dozen states have been working overtime this year to keep Democratic voters away from the polls in 2012, as detailed by Ari Berman in a recent issue of Rolling Stone. Working in coordinated fashion, they've pushed through an array of measures – from curbs on voter registration to bars on ex-felons voting to ID requirements – geared, they say, toward combating voter fraud.
The thing is, voter fraud isn't much of a problem; at least, nobody has been able to produce any actual evidence that it is. What is a problem, from the GOP standpoint, is Democrats turning out to vote, and the new restrictions take care of that by falling most heavily on likely Democratic voters, like lower-income people, students, and minorities. As former president Bill Clinton told a group of students earlier this year, "There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today."
Case in point: a new South Carolina voter identification law requiring that that every person have photo ID of some kind – driver’s license, military ID, passport – when they vote is affecting majority-black precincts more than others in the state, according to a new study by the Associated Press. That's because, in South Carolina as elsewhere, minorities people are less likely than whites to have the right identification (which costs money), as the authors of the law – and similar ones in effect in Georgia, Indiana and four other states – were doubtless aware.
It's true that the new law doesn't outright bar voting for people without photo identification, but it does create hurdles. And while the state is offering free ID cards, people have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get them. It still places an undue burden on overwhelmingly Democratic voters. "This is electoral genocide," South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian told the AP. "This is disenfranchising huge groups of people who don’t have the money to go get an ID card."
• The GOP War on Voting by Ari Berman