Election 2012: Voting Laws Roundup

October 11, 2012

See our updated roundup of voting law changes in 2013.

In the past two years, states across the country passed a wave of laws that could make it harder to vote. The Brennan Center chronicled these laws in our report, Voting Law Changes in 2012. Overall, 25 laws and 2 executive actions passed in 19 states since the beginning of 2011.

But then voting rights advocates fought back.

Citizens rejected these laws at the polls, nearly a dozen courts overturned or weakened restrictive measures, and the Department of Justice blocked others.

Below you will find a regularly-updated, comprehensive roundup of where laws were introduced, where they passed, where they were blocked or blunted, and where they are in effect for the 2012 election. (Click maps for larger view).

Please see this detailed compilation for a fuller listing of restrictive voting laws passed and pending.


Numbers Overview

At least 180 restrictive bills introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states.

27 restrictive bills currently pending in 6 states.

25 laws and 2 executive actions passed since the beginning of 2011 in 19 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin).

15 states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that have the potential to impact the 2012 election (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). These states account for 203 electoral votes, or 75 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.

Of these, restrictions from 18 laws and executive actions are currently in effect in 13 states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).

In the past two years, vetoes, referendums, court decisions, or the Department of Justice have blocked or blunted restrictive measures in 14 states (Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin). Note: this list does not include successful legislative victories such as those in Nebraska and other states.


 


Summary of Laws Passed

  • Identification laws (read a detailed summary of laws passed since the beginning of 2011)
    • Photo ID laws. At least 34 states introduced laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, and four more introduced laws requesting such ID.[1] Photo ID bills were signed into law in eight states — Alabama, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin — and passed by referendum in Mississippi. New photo ID laws will be in effect in Kansas and Tennessee this November. Courts blocked laws in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Rhode Island’s law will not require photo ID for the 2012 election. South Carolina's will not be in effect for 2012. And Alabama’s and Mississippi’s are currently under review. In addition, Minnesotans will vote on an amendment to the state Constitution that would require government issued photo ID to vote in person.
    • Voter ID laws. Virginia passed a law requiring an ID to vote, including various forms of photo ID. This law eliminated an option to sign an affidavit to confirm identity when voting at the polls or applying for an absentee ballot in person. New Hampshire’s ID law requires a voter to produce documentary ID or submit an affidavit of identity. After September 2013, a voter must produce a New Hampshire or U.S. government photo ID or execute an affidavit of identity, no other form of identification will be accepted. Rhode Island’s photo ID law allows for non-photo IDs until January 1, 2014.
  • Proof of citizenship laws. At least 17 states introduced legislation that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote.[2] Proof of citizenship laws passed in Alabama, Kansas, and Tennessee, but only Tennessee’s law will be in effect for 2012. The Tennessee law, however, applies only to individuals flagged by state officials as potential non-citizens based on a database check.
  • Making voter registration harder. At least 16 states introduced bills to end highly popular Election Day and same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities.[3] Florida, Illinois and Texas passed laws restricting voter registration drives, and Florida and Wisconsin passed laws making it more difficult for people who move to stay registered and vote. A federal judge blocked Florida’s registration drive restrictions in August. Ohio ended its weeklong period of same-day voter registration, and the Maine legislature passed a law eliminating Election Day registration. Luckily, Maine voters later repealed the law, and Ohio’s legislature repealed the voter registration restrictions. In addition, some opponents of the Minnesota constitutional amendment have argued that it has the possible effect of eliminating Election Day registration as it currently exists in that state. That amendment will be voted on by referendum in the 2012 general election.
  • Reducing early and absentee days. At least nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities.[4] Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia succeeded in enacting bills reducing early voting. In Ohio, a court restored early voting to the weekend before the election, but that decision is being appealed.
  • Making it harder to restore voting rights. Two states — Florida and Iowa — reversed prior execu­tive actions that made it easier for citizens with past felony convictions to restore their voting rights, affecting hundreds of thousands of voters. In effect, both states now permanently disenfran­chise most citizens with past felony convictions. South Dakota passed a law imposing further restrictions on citizens with felony convictions by denying voting rights to persons on probation.

Restrictions in Effect for 2012 Election

Fifteen states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that have the potential to impact the 2012 election, representing 203 electoral votes, or 75 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.

Florida

  • Early voting restriction
  • Executive action making it harder to restore voting rights for those with past criminal convictions
  • Voter registration drive restrictions are still in place, but the most onerous aspects of the law were blocked by a federal court

Georgia

  • Early voting restriction
  • Georgia also has a photo ID law, which passed in 2005

Illinois

  • Voter registration drive restriction

Iowa

  • Executive action making it harder to restore voting rights for those with past criminal convictions

Kansas

  • Photo ID required to vote

New Hampshire

  • Voter ID required — non-photo IDs allowed for 2012 election, but photo ID required starting September 1, 2013

Pennsylvania

  • Photo ID requested but NOT required to vote, per October 2, 2012 court decision

Rhode Island

  • Voter ID required — non-photo IDs allowed for 2012 election, but photo ID required starting January 1, 2014

South Dakota

  • Law making it harder to restore voting rights for those with past criminal convictions

Tennessee

  • Photo ID required to vote
  • Proof of citizenship required to register
  • Early voting restriction

Texas

  • Voter registration drive restriction
  • Texas passed a law requiring a photo ID to vote, but a federal court blocked that law in August — it will NOT be in effect for 2012

Virginia

  • Voter ID required, including non-photo ID

West Virginia

  • Early voting restriction

Wisconsin

  • Voter registration restriction
  • Wisconsin passed a law requiring photo ID to vote, but two state courts blocked that law — it will NOT be in effect for 2012

A breakdown of laws that are NOT currently in effect but could be by the 2012 election:

Ohio

  • Early voting restriction currently NOT in effect — the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a decision extending early voting hours, but it could still be reviewed by the full court

South Carolina

  • A federal court did NOT approve South Carolina's photo ID law for the 2012 election — a voter can use their non-photo voter registration card after 2012, so long as they state the reason for not having obtained a photo ID

[1] 34 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Additional 4 states: Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

[2] 17 states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

[3] 16 states: California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.

[4] 11 total states: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.