For many Americans, casting a ballot this year will be harder than ever before. Over the past two years, a disturbing new voter suppression trend has viciously bloomed in states across the U.S., one that will almost certainly play a role in the 2012 election.
Ohio is one of the latest states to join the fray: The Republican-controlled state legislature recently ended the early-voting privileges for registered Ohio voters on the Friday before Election Day, rather than the Monday prior to voting. Members of the armed forces will still be allowed to cast votes leading up to Election Day, though their civilian counterparts will not. Those final days are a significant last-minute window for groups aiming to get voters to the polls.
The Obama administration came down on Ohio’s measure by filing a lawsuit that aims to restore the final three days of early voting to all Ohioans. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, entered the debate by accusing the president of attempting to “undermine” the troops. Romney asserted that Obama’s lawsuit would make it more difficult for active service members to vote. His campaign has since been unable to actually demonstrate that fact, since, well, it’s simply not true.
Prior to this decision, Ohio voters had the option to submit their choice in person or by mail — an option that many registered voters took advantage of. AP estimates that in the 2008 election, 1.7 million votes (or 30 percent) were cast early, and 93,000 were cast during the final three-day period. For many Americans who work odd hours, have small children, work at multiple jobs or have other situations that would prevent them from visiting the polls on Election Day, early voting periods mean the difference between having a voice and total Election Day silence.
This piece of legislation is just one more blow in the face of voter rights. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since the beginning of 2011 there have been 180 measures to curtail voting rights in 41 states across America. On top of that, 16 states have passed legislation that will make it more difficult for Americans to vote, and 13 laws are now in effect in nine states.
Most startling? These states account for 214 electoral votes, or nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
Voter suppression tactics are varied and have included initiatives that restrict early voting and absentee ballots, demand proof of citizenship, and impose requirements on government identification. All in all, it is estimated that more than 5 million voters could have trouble casting their ballots.
Tonight, Jennifer Granholm speaks with Democratic National Committee counselor Will Crossley about these voter suppression tactics and President Obama’s lawsuit against Ohio. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT to listen in, and talk to us on Twitter and Facebook to be part of the discussion!