Friday, March 23, 2012

New Voter Registration Laws Disenfranchise Youth Voters and People of Color

Contributed by Amber Walker
As the country prepares for the upcoming 2012 Presidential elections, some states are actively working to implement new laws regarding third party voter registration, early voting, and Election Day procedures at the polls. In 2011, fourteen states passed restrictive voting laws that will disproportionately impact young people, people of color, and the elderly in the 2012 elections. Several of the states that passed these restrictive laws saw a substantial increase in the amount of people representing these demographics turn out to vote in the 2008 elections.
Florida has faced a significant amount of criticism regarding the changes to the state’s voting laws. Specifically, voter registration laws enacted in Florida in 2012 have negatively impacted third party organizations. Since the laws passed, third party organizations who seek to register voters in Florida must be approved by the Florida Division of Elections and assigned an identification number before registration efforts can take place. Also, the time frame for submitting completed voter registration forms has significantly decreased from ten days to 48 hours.
These new laws have placed such a strain on third party organizations that many have decided to suspend their voter registration efforts in Florida this election cycle. This is particularly detrimental to registration efforts in Florida considering third party organizations worked to register hundreds of thousands of voters before the 2008 elections. Many of the people these organizations reached were young people and people of color.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) published the report, “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America” to highlight the restrictive voting laws emerging across the country. The report asserts these “Block the Vote” tactics, “threaten to undermine the record levels of political participation witnessed during the historic 2008 Presidential Election, by blocking access to people of color, the poor, the elderly, and the young.”
In December 2011, Rock the Vote, The League of Women Voters, and Florida PIRG filed suit to challenge the new laws in Florida. Last week, a federal judge heard preliminary arguments in the case. 

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