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GAO report: Voter ID laws stunted turnout

Voter ID laws helped contribute to lower voter turnout in Kansas and Tennessee in 2012, according a new study by the Government Accountability Office.

Congress’s research arm blamed the two states’ laws requiring that voters show identification on a dip in turnout in 2012 — about 2 percentage points in Kansas and between 2.2 and 3.2 percentage points in Tennessee. Those declines were greater among younger and African-American voters, when compared to turnout in other states.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) requested the report in light of last year’s decision by the Supreme Court striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. The decision freed a number of states from a pre-clearance requirement to run all changes to voting laws by the Department of Justice.

{mosads}Leahy, Durbin and Schumer are co-sponsors of a bill that would update that pre-clearance to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“This new analysis from GAO reaffirms what many in Congress already know: Threats to the right to vote still exist,” Leahy said in a statement. “That is why Congress must act to restore the fundamental protections of the Voting Rights Act that have been gutted by the Supreme Court.”

Many Republican-led states have passed voter ID laws they say will help prevent voter fraud. While the GAO report found “few instances of in-person voter fraud,” it could not definitively say how much fraud exists.

Leahy further accused Republicans of “efforts to limit access to the ballot box” and “playing politics with the right to vote” by pushing voter ID laws.

During a hearing on the Democrats’ fix to the Voting Rights Act in June, conservative witnesses and lawmakers questioned the proposal, defending the remaining part of the Voting Rights Act as sufficient to prosecute voting rights violations.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said during the hearing that requiring identification before voting is as important as requiring it before entering a government building like the Justice Department.  

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Nelson Charles Schumer Dick Durbin GAO John Cornyn Kansas Patrick Leahy Tennessee voting rights

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