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'Alarming Number' of New State Laws Making it 'Significantly Harder' to Vote: Senators, GAO Report

Common Dreams staff

(Photo: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

The Government Accountability Office released a new report Thursday confirming millions of Americans have been disenfranchised by voter suppression laws in up to 31 states, signalling a "major shift" over the past tens years towards the limiting of rights of eligible voters to cast their ballots.

The study, which was requested by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), shows in the past ten years, 21 states passed new voter ID laws, seven states tightened existing ID requirements, six states passed new proof-of-citizenship requirements and 18 states imposed new restrictions on voter registration drives.

In total, 31 states have made it more difficult for eligible voters to vote by forcing voters to show identification prior to casting a ballot at the polls on election day, the report said.

The report comes two days after a Pennsylvania judge halted the state's voter ID law, stating, "I am still not convinced in my predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement."

The laws have largely been pushed by GOP legislators.

"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," said Leahy Thursday.

"Today’s GAO report confirms what many have been saying for over a year: the spate of recently passed state voting laws is making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly and low-income Americans to vote,” said Durbin.

The reason given for the implementation of voter id laws, is fear of 'voter fraud'; however, the GOA study said they were unable to document any incidents of this voter fraud due to a lack of data. Earlier reports have shown voter fraud to be negligible at best, making up 0.0004 to 0.0009 percent of votes cast.

“We must make it easier, not harder, for poor and working people to vote and to participate in the political process,” Sanders said Thursday. “There is no credible evidence of voter fraud having had any impact whatsoever on the outcome of an election in recent history. Using unfounded scare tactics and isolated cases to weaken the public’s faith in elections and to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters is reprehensible.”

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