The partisan squabble over stricter voting laws is fueled by the stakes in November, where Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio – three states that could have a significant influence on who wins the presidential race – are tinkering with who can vote and when.
“Very small things could turn this election," says Philip Meyer, a polling expert at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "Even if it’s just a fraction of 1 percent who are affected by a voter ID law, that could be enough to change the outcome. There’s no such thing as trivial in a close election.”
Republican-controlled statehouses have passed 10 new voter ID laws ahead of Election 2012. In former Confederate states including South Carolina and Texas, the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has challenged new voter ID laws under the Civil Rights Act, with Attorney General Eric Holder likening them to Jim Crow-era poll taxes that kept blacks out of voting booths.
Pennsylvania's new law is part of this trend.
In Wisconsin, the battle is different. The state secretary of state's office, headed by a Democrat, recently released a memo warning that “boisterous” election observers may be removed by police. Conservative activists read the memo as a preemptive attempt to silence political opposition.