The Rev. Al Sharpton, and other civil rights leaders, are marching this week in Alabama, in an attempt to draw public attention to controversial voting laws passed in states around the country, the latest move in the growing debate on the issue.
The five-day march from Selma to Montgomery, which retraces the steps Martin Luther King. Jr, and others, took in 1965 to fight for voting rights, is part of a broader push by civil rights advocates to organize against a series of laws passed since 2008 that many Democrats feel target young people and minorities who backed Barack Obama four years ago, and are likely to again.
Eight states, including key electoral battlegrounds like Wisconsin, have passed laws over the last year that will require a photo identification to vote. Other states have also passed controversial measures, such as Florida, where Republicans pushed through measures that would limit the days of early voting and increase restrictions on how voter registration groups conduct their work.
The fight against the laws is not just from civil rights groups. The U.S. Department of Justice, using its power under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, invalidated the voter ID law in South Carolina, arguing that it unfairly discriminated against blacks. It is now closely examining a similar law in Texas.
The groups Rock the Vote and League of Women Voters Florida filed suit last week against a Florida provision that requires voter registration groups and their workers to register with the state, and mandates that groups turn in their newly registered voter forms within 48 hours, instead of 10 days, as under the previous law.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block a voter ID law in Wisconsin.
There is some dispute over exactly how many voters will be affected by these new laws, with some civil rights groups arguing that as many as five million people could be ineligible to vote if they don’t get photo identifications, or the laws are not overturned.
Most of the states that have passed these laws are conservative places like Texas, where Obama had little chance to win anyway. But the provisions in Wisconsin and Florida could make a difference because of how close those states are likely to be this November.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr