By Julissa Catalan
Republicans are aiming to impose new voting restrictions on swing states where the legislatures are already under Republican control, setting up the potential for a substantial impact on future elections.
The modifications are said to include a cutback in the days and times polls will be open, as well as the locations in which people vote.
These types of restrictions have already taken place in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, while North Carolina Democrats are fighting the restrictive laws passed by Republicans in their state last year.
So far, it has been found that these changes affect the underrepresented community most. “They know when they are taking away early voting exactly who it’s affecting,” said Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County Executive and a Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio.
For example, by doing away with weekend voting hours, urban and Black voters who would typically caravan on a Sunday after church to the polls would lose their opportunity to vote. Blacks and Latinos also typically work odd and/or longer hours than most, while whites and wealthier people work a 9-to-5 schedule or have flexibility in their hours. The late hours and varying locations made it possible for low-income people to still cast their vote.
Further changes also include restrictions in the registration process, as well as in the options to cast a provisional or absentee vote.
As of 2013, nine states have passed laws that restrict voting opportunities, most of which have to do with ID restrictions. Other states are considering following Arizona’s and Kansas’ leads by implementing mandatory proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or passport in order to cast a vote. This makes it more difficult for the underserved community to vote, as they do not have their original documents and are unable to obtain certified copies due to costs and accessibility.
Republicans maintain that the new laws save money and help prevent fraud, but Democrats disagree. They see this as an opportunity for the GOP to tilt races in their favor, as those who are most affected typically vote Democrat.
These types of modifications to voting policies began last year when the Supreme Court did away with a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, allowing Southern states to change their voting laws without requiring approval from the Justice Department. Within weeks, the mostly Republican states incorporated new laws that included strict enforcement of photo-ID restrictionsno longer permitting student or worker IDsas well as reducing the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10, and dismissing same-day voter registration and high-school-student preregistration.
Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin made similar changes shortly thereafter.
The Justice Department has filed lawsuits against North Carolina and Texas in an attempt to combat this issue, while Democratic states like California, Colorado and Maryland have made voting more accessible by making registration available online.
According to Richard L. Hasen, an election expert at the University of California, Irvine, “The case has not been made that these things so far have had a huge effect on turnout. But laws are getting stricter and stricter, so the question is will Texas’ ID law and the omnibus bill in North Carolina have such an effect”
For now, it will be a waiting game to see just how much of an impact these new laws will actually have on upcoming elections.