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Monday, February 20, 2012

Thirty-one States Have New Jim Crow Voter ID Laws.

Challenges to voter ID laws are building as voters cast ballots in primaries and gear up for the general election this fall.

Thirty-one states have voter identification laws, including eight — Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — that were enacted or toughened last year. Of the 31 laws, 27 are expected to be in effect for the general election this year, says Meagan Dorsch, spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan research group. One has been blocked by federal action; three have later effective dates.

Laws requiring voters to show identification at the polls have been around since 1970, but they are becoming more numerous and stringent. Once a voter registration card or utility bill sufficed. Now a growing number of laws require voters to show picture IDs.

Most of the new laws have been passed by Republican legislatures, the NCSL says. Supporters say they are necessary to prevent fraud. Opponents say they keep the poor, minorities and seniors — who often back Democrats — from voting because those groups are less likely than the general population to have government-issued IDs.

The Justice Department and civil liberties groups are challenging laws in several states:

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