“That’s sort of deep if you consider that in 2004, [Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry won Wisconsin by [only] 14,000 votes.”
There is no doubt that if young African American and other voters are denied access to voting next year, Democrats will lose, Baker says.
“You can look at the numbers, we can cut the numbers, and we can take the young people of color for granted. But if young people of color do not vote in 2012, we will lose the White House,” he says.
The restrictions that these new state-level voting laws represent have only recently become a real issue of concern, opponents say.
'One Of Our Toughest Fights'
Further, the most common form of these new restrictions are the ones which require voters to show specific forms of ID before being allowed to vote.
“This is one of our toughest fights because it sounds innocuous enough, right? And for the 88 or 89 percent of people who have the right type of ID, it’s hard for them to recognize that there are a heck of a lot of people out there who don’t,” says Megan Donovan, with the Fair Elections Legal Network.
The problem is that these new laws were “crafted very, very, very strictly: not just to say, ‘Show some ID so that we know who you are,’ but in order to vote you need to have X, Y, or Z – and that’s all that’s going to count,” she says.
Most commonly, these laws require a voter to present a valid state driver's license or passport, and “by and large, they are very narrowly drawn to exclude a lot of common forms of ID,” such as student IDs, she adds.
These restrictions fall heavily on young people, Donovan says.
“It’s well-documented in a number of settings that when you start breaking down who doesn’t have these types of IDs, it’s falls disproportionately on minority voters, as well,” she says.
When the specifics of the voter ID laws differ, they do so “in telling ways,” Donovan says.
For instance, in Texas, an acceptable ID with which to vote is a gun license. “But if you have a student ID, that’s not going to count.”