Tough new election laws aimed at forcing voters in many states to show photo identification at polling places have been blocked or delayed, delighting opponents who claim they were among a variety of partisan attempts to keep minorities from voting.
Supporters of the measures nevertheless predict they will prevail in the long run. And court battles continue in some states even as the Nov. 6 election date draws near.
The stakes are high especially in swing states where a close margin is expected in the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, as well as in numerous congressional and local campaigns. Other battles in key states such as Florida and Ohio have been fought over reductions in the number of early voting days and new restrictions on voter registration drives.
In the latest boon for Democrats, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for voters in Ohio to cast ballots on the three days before Election Day, giving Obama’s campaign a victory three weeks before the election. The court refused a request by the state’s Republican elections chief and attorney general to get involved in a battle over early voting.
“It’s been a real remarkable string of victories,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “There is an overwhelming sense that the courts are skeptical of this push to restrict voting. They recognize the basic thrust of this effort is counter to democracy.”
Yet proponents of the laws, which they say help guarantee integrity in the election process, can point to some victories as well. For example, a panel of three federal judges ruled earlier this month that South Carolina’s new voter photo ID law complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and would not disenfranchise minorities. But the judges also said the law could not take effect until 2013.
Read more about what’s happening this election season in The Grio