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Expert Brief

Election 2012: Voting Laws Roundup

In the past two years, states across the country passed a wave of laws that could make it harder to vote. But then voting rights advocates fought back. This comprehensive roundup shows where laws were introduced, where they passed, where they were blocked or blunted, and where they are in effect for the 2012 election.

Published: October 11, 2012

See our updated roundup of voting law changes in 2013 and 2014.

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.


States with Restrictive Voting Legislation since 2011

States that passed restrictive voting laws 2012

Pushback Against Restrictive Voting Laws 2012

Restrictive Voting Laws for 2012 Election

 


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 reques­ted 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.