Since the 2010 election, Republicans have approved laws in more than a dozen states to restrict the right to vote. These laws include requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, disenfranchising ex-felons and mandating government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot. The Brennan Center estimates that “these new laws could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012,” and notes that “these new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities.” States with restrictive voting laws now comprise 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency—including crucial swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The impact of such laws could be one of the sleeper issues that helps decides the 2012 election.
…Wendy Weiser notes that the main ideas included in the Voter Empowerment Act are common-sense reforms that have been adopted on a bipartisan basis in a number of states. They would make US elections more convenient, more efficient, more participatory, more secure and less expensive—virtues that all sides should be able to agree on. “These are not partisan hot-button issues,” Weiser says. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Non-partisan voting rights groups like the Brennan Center, Common Cause, Demos, the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have endorsed the effort. The bill has approximately 100 Democratic supporters in the House, but so far no Republicans have signed on.
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