State ID laws: 10 million Hispanic voters could be affected, study says

Some 23 states have or are considering laws to mandate voter IDs, toughen voting restrictions, or cull noncitizens from voter rolls. According to a new study, the laws could deter many eligible Hispanic voters.

By , Staff writer

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    Pennsylvania state Rep. Robert Freeman speaks to educate and inform on the topic of the Voter ID law in Centre Square on Sept. 15 in Easton, Pa.
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New restrictive voting laws in 23 states could make it more difficult for a significant number of Latino voters to cast ballots in the November presidential election, according to a new study released on Monday.

Voter ID laws, tougher voter registration requirements, and efforts by state officials to remove noncitizens from their voter rolls could intimidate or deter many Latinos from exercising their right to vote, the report says.

The study, produced by the civil rights group Advancement Project, says there are more than 10 million eligible Latino voters “who could be deterred or prevented from voting in the 2012 elections” because of new voting laws enacted or proposed in 23 states.

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The new measures include a photo ID law currently under court review in Pennsylvania. Florida and Colorado are cited for attempting to remove noncitizens from their voter rolls by comparing information from the state’s driver’s license database with information in a federal immigration database.

Political analysts believe Latino voters could prove decisive in the coming presidential election depending on turnout. Polls show President Obama enjoys a significant advantage among Hispanic voters over Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The president has pursued issues favored by Latinos, including launching a legal challenge to Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Senate Bill 1070. The Obama administration also authorized an executive branch version of the DREAM Act, which has stalled in the Senate. It allows 1.7 million children of illegal immigrants to avoid the threat of deportation.

Voter turnout among Hispanics has historically not been high, and it remains unclear whether they will vote in large numbers in November.

In the meantime, Republican lawmakers in several swing states featuring potentially tight races have enacted new voting laws that critics say are intended to suppress Latino and African-American votes. They say the new measures are part of a partisan attempt to undercut electoral support for Mr. Obama.

Authors of the report agree. The report is entitled: “Segregating American Citizenship: Latino Voter Disenfranchisement in 2012.”

“Voter suppression laws and policies threaten to relegate eligible Latino voters to second-class citizenship and impede their ability to participate fully in American democracy,” the report says. “Like African-Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites.”

Penda Hair, a co-director of the Advancement Project, told reporters during a teleconference that the new state voting laws amounted to the “greatest assault on voting rights throughout our history.”

Some critics, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have compared voter ID laws to a new version of Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

Ms. Hair said the group would fight “to ensure that communities of color are not intimidated or silenced.”

State officials have defended their new voting laws as legitimate efforts to fortify the election process against fraud. They say photo ID is necessary to travel by jetliner or enter a federal office building. The security of voting is no less important, they say.

The Advancement Project’s report urges the repeal of all “voter suppression laws and policies.”

“Election officials should be working to increase voter registration and participation, as opposed to implementing voter suppression laws,” the report says.

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