Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. indicated Tuesday that the Justice Department will take an aggressive approach in reviewing state laws believed to suppress voter participation.
Several states have enacted laws requiring state-issued voter identification or limiting opportunities for new voters to register that could disproportionately affect minorities, elderly or low-income residents. Voter ID requirements in Texas and South Carolina are under review as is a Florida law limiting early voting.
Other states are also looking to limit early voting procedures that allow voters to cast their ballots days or weeks ahead of Election Day. Regulations vary. In some states, voters can take their time to fill out ballots in the privacy of their homes and mail them in; in other states designated polling places are opened for those casting ballots in person prior to the general election.
In the last presidential election, 34 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day, USA Today reported. But at least seven states Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia have enacted restrictions that could reduce the number in 2012. A bill in North Carolina would reduce early voting from 16 days to 10 days.
The legislative moves may be a partisan attempt to frustrate potential Democratic supporters in the 2012 presidential election since Republicans control the legislature and governors office in all of the states except West Virginia. In Florida, nearly 3.3 million of the early voters were Democrats compared to about 810,000 Republicans in the 2008 election, when President Obama carried the state.
Ohio voters will weigh in on whether to restrict early voting after enough signatures were gathered on a petition to put on the November ballot a referendum repealing the states restrictions.
Attorney General Holder in his remarks Tuesday urged Americans to call on our political parties to resist temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, achieve success by appealing to more voters. In a country with traditionally poor turnout, the states and parties should be looking for ways to increase voter turnout rather than limiting participation.