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11 States Trying Really Hard to Keep Poor, Black, and Student Voters From Voting

The 2012 election is closer than you think--and just in time, states are passing a host of new bills aimed at making it harder to vote.

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And if all that isn't enough, the law also revokes a four-decades-old policy of allowing voters to change their address when they vote and still cast a regular ballot. Instead, voters who have moved and haven't managed to update their address by Election Day are stuck with provisional ballots, which are rarely counted.

The Florida ACLU and Project Vote have challenged the law under the Voting Rights Act of 1965—and in five counties, the law cannot go into effect without pre-clearance by the Justice Department because of the long history of black voter suppression there.

Historian Karl Shepard, incensed by attacks on voters in Florida and around the country, noted the long history of Southern voter disenfranchisement, and warns, “Welcome to the new face of Jim Crow – in 2011 – black people and college students.”

Not coincidentally, perhaps, these are very voters credited with giving Barack Obama the edge in 2008, and President Obama and other Democrats will be depending on them again in 2012.

 4. Ohio

Ohio State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg was one of the key sponsors of Ohio's bill that would require a driver's license or one of five other forms of ID to vote.

It's been called possibly the nation's  most restrictive voter identification law because of the narrow range of acceptable documents.

Mecklenborg himself doesn't have a valid driver's license. We know this because he was arrested just before sponsoring the bill on drunk driving charges—without his ID. What he did have with him was a  young woman and detectable amounts of Viagra in his system. No word if those will become requirements for Ohio voters.

Mecklenborg may be stepping down, but the voter ID bill already passed the House and awaits a Senate vote. The  ACLU is already prepared to challenge the bill, which it says will “disenfranchise thousands of Ohioans to solve a problem that does not exist.”

Meanwhile, not content with pushing for stricter requirements for voters, Ohio Republicans passed a bill that will shorten the period of time in which people can vote, and to eliminate the “Golden Week” in which voters can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. Early voting allows people without flexible schedules more time to vote and cuts down on long election-day poll lines, and same-day voter registration has been shown to significantly increase voter turnout. 

Ohio, which is expected to be crucial for 2012 presidential candidates as well as the  center of its own firestorm over anti-union bills, has had success with its early voting since 2005 (after  2004's controversial election). These combined attacks on voters' rights could undo all those advances and then some—they could not only swing a referendum, but another presidential election. But progressive groups are already preparing to challenge the new election law--the group Fair Elections Ohio submitted the first 1000 signatures on a petition to hold the bill until voters can weigh in on it, as a ballot measure in 2012. 

5. Missouri 

“This [photo ID] mandate would disproportionately impact senior citizens and persons with disabilities, among others, who are qualified to vote and have been lawfully voting since becoming eligible to do so, but are less likely to have a driver’s license or government-issued photo ID,” Nixon said in a letter explaining his veto. “Disenfranchising certain classes of persons is not acceptable.” 

That was Missouri's Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, as he vetoed a law in June that would have required a government-issued photo ID for voters. But the veto isn't the final step for the law. The state legislature passed the bill as an amendment to the state Constitution, meaning that despite the governor's veto, Missouri voters will still get to have the final say on the bill in the November 2012 election.