The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, listed Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas as the five states who passed the most restrictive voting laws in 2011, seeking to highlight a group of laws that Democrats say are designed to limit the voting of people likely to back President Obama.
In a report the group released this week, CAP specifically highlighted Florida, which over the past two years enacted laws that have made it more difficult for groups to register new voters, reduced the time period allowed for early voting from two weeks to eight days and required convicted felons who have been released to wait five years before their voting rights are restored.
The laws in Florida are particularly important because of its status as a key swing state whose winner in November is likely to become president. Civil rights groups say the restriction on felons and the shrinking of the early vote period could both disproportionately affect African-Americans.
All the states but Florida have passed laws requiring photo identification to vote, which the Department of Justice and many liberal groups have also criticized, highlighting the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos who don’t have photo identification.
Many of the laws, including the provisions in Florida, are under review by both courts and the Department Justice. But the impact of the voter registration law in Florida, which increases fines on groups that don’t quickly turn in information on new voters, has already been felt, as the League of Women Voters has suspended its voting drive in the state.
The laws and their potential impact increase the pressure on the Obama campaign to make sure potential voters, particularly African-Americans, have the correct identification and are registered to vote. Obama is likely to more reliant on the votes of blacks, Latinos and voters under 30, the groups among which he is more popular, as white independent voters are expected to favor Romney more than they did Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) because of the bad economy.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr