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Whose votes count, whose don't? The legal landscape before Election Day

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In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, challenges to the ID laws in those states were litigated by civil rights groups on behalf of minority voters. In contrast, the Texas and South Carolina laws were challenged by the Justice Department under its authority via the VRA.

In the Texas case, a three-judge panel invalidated the law on the grounds that the photo ID requirement would create burdens that fall disproportionately on the poor, including a large number of African-Americans and Hispanics. The panel was made up of judges appointed by Presidents Obama, Bush II, and Clinton.

In the South Carolina case, a different three-judge panel (made up of two judges appointed by Mr. Bush and one by Mr. Clinton) found that the ID law did not have a discriminatory regressive effect on minority voters.

The court granted preclearance for the law to be enforced in elections beginning in 2013 – but not the current election. The judges said more time was necessary for South Carolina to fully implement the new ID law in a way that would avoid any discriminatory retrogressive effect on African-American voters in South Carolina.

Thus, in four different voter ID cases decided by different judges with different political orientations, two of the laws were struck down and two were upheld. But, perhaps most significant, all four were effectively blocked from use during the 2012 election.

Early voting

Another hotly contested area of preelection litigation involved early voting.

The Republican-controlled legislatures in Ohio and Florida passed laws cutting back on the amount of time available to cast an early ballot before Election Day on Nov. 6.

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