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New state laws that make it harder for millions of voters to cast ballots are detailed in a Government Accountability Office report released today.
The comprehensive study was requested by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Local senators are asking the non-partisan research arm of Congress to investigate what they called an “alarming number” of new state laws that will make it “significantly harder” for millions of voters to cast ballots on Nov. 6.
The GAO report was issued two days after aPennsylvaniajudge issued the latest in a string of court rulings that have struck down or limited several state laws restricting access to the ballot box.
Overall, the study documented a major shift during the past decade. Twenty-one states passed new voter ID laws and seven states tightened existing ID requirements. Altogether, 31 states have requirements for all eligible voters to show identification prior to casting a ballot at the polls on Election Day, the report said. In addition, six states passed new proof-of-citizenship requirements and 18 states imposed new restrictions on voter registration drives during the past 10 years.
Since voter fraud was the ostensible reason for the new laws, These same senators asked for details on “any prosecutions or convictions for voter impersonation fraud within each state during the previous 10 years.” Citing a lack of data, the GAO was unable to document voter fraud.
The GAO plans a follow-up report next year analyzing the impact of the new state laws on voters’ ability to exercise their rights. That report will include a state-by-state analysis of the cost and accessibility of documents required to register to vote and obtain photo IDs, as well as data on the race, gender and socioeconomic status of the voters affected by the new requirements. The second phase of the report also will explore how many provisional ballots are cast and how many are ultimately counted in each state.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, says “Today’s GAO report shines a light on the wave of newly enacted state laws that burden and restrict the right to vote for millions of Americans,” and he says “I hope GAO follows up quickly with the review we have requested of alleged in-person voter fraud.. As we saw in our recent Judiciary Committee hearing looking at the impact of laws to restrict voting, we must work to protect one of the most fundamental rights Americans enjoy – the right to vote.”