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A War On Voting?

The big push to tighten voting laws across the country, and its politics. Charges of a war on voting.

Don Huntrods, of Van Meter, Iowa, emerges from a voting booth after casting his ballot, in Lee Township, Iowa, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004. (AP)

Don Huntrods, of Van Meter, Iowa, emerges from a voting booth after casting his ballot, in Lee Township, Iowa, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004. (AP)

Democracy means get out the vote. But a new wave of state legislation across the country is making it harder to vote. Tightening up in many ways. Making voter registration more difficult. Reducing early voting days. Demanding voter ID. Proof of citizenship.

Backers say it’s all to clean up American voting. Critics say that’s a ruse. That voter fraud problems in this country are miniscule. That it’s really a Republican drive to push away voters they don’t want at the polls. A “war on voting.”

This hour On Point: the wave of new restrictions on American voting.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation and author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics. His article, for the September 15th issue of Rolling Stone, was The GOP War on Voting.

Jason Torchinsky, Partner at the private lawfirm Holtzman Vogel. Former Counsel to the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; Deputy general counsel to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign and Inaugural Committee.

Elisabeth MacNamara, National president of the League of Women Voters.

Jamin Raskin, Democratic State Senator from Maryland, he’s author of “Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People.”

Highlights

A series of laws passed by Republican-controlled state houses nationwide has critics warning of a “war on voting” waged by the GOP to disenfranchise poor and minority voters who skew Democratic. Supporters of the new laws say that it is about preserving the integrity of the process and rooting out voter fraud.

One of the most high-profile changes to voting laws have been passed in six states recently, requiring a photo ID to vote. Nationwide, ten percent of Americans don’t have a photo ID, including 25 percent of African Americans.

“We definitely view it as voter suppression, whatever the motivation,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the non-partisan League of Women Voters. She said that the new laws are not only expensive to implement, but also amount to new and onerous government regulations with “almost no benefit from an integrity standpoint.”

“It is sweeping, it amounts to the most wholesale rewriting of the nation’s election laws since the passage of the Voting Rights Act,” Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation, whose recent article in Rolling Stone dealt with the new voting laws.

“There’s no problem in American elections that justifies these types of laws.”

Not so, supporters of the laws contend. “What you’re seeing is an effort to help ensure the integrity of elections nationwide,” said Jason Torchinsky, a partner at the private law firm Holtzman Vogel. He’s the former Counsel to the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; during the Bush administration. “I don’t think these efforts at the state level are designed to stop Democrats from voting.”

Critics say concerns about voters’ identities are unfounded. “There are a miniscule number of cases where people have impersonated someone to go and vote – you have a better chance of being struck by lightning,” argued Jamin Raskin, Democratic State Senator from Maryland and author of “Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Rolling Stone “As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. “What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century,” says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.”

Talking Points Memo “Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will chair a hearing next week examining the rash of voter ID laws passed by state legislatures this year amidst concerns that such laws could suppress Democratic turnout across the country.”

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