But traditionally weak midterm turnout by Democrats coupled with efforts in some states to limit early voting and to enact voter identification requirements have prompted the president and his party to raise alarms and step up their get-out-the-vote efforts.
Republicans have long argued that identification requirements and other voting controls are reasonable measures designed to safeguard the balloting process, not to suppress voter turnout. Democrats say photo identification requirements especially affect minority or low-income voters who may not drive and thus wouldn’t have an official government ID.
“I want to be clear: I am not against reasonable attempts to secure the ballot. We understand that there has to be rules in place,” Obama said. “But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don’t have. “
Just last year, seven states passed voter restrictions, ranging from reductions in early voting periods to identification requirements, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. North Carolina alone adopted a photo ID requirement, eliminated registrations on Election Day and reduced the number of early voting days. Overall 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls.
The North Carolina steps, which take effect in the 2016 election, came after the Supreme Court last June threw out the crucial section of the Voting Rights Act that required that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mainly in the South, get federal approval before changing their election laws.
Bipartisan legislation proposed in the House and Senate would attempt to address the constitutional concerns raised by the Supreme Court. But sponsors such as Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., are still trying to line up enough support for the proposals.