A judge in Pennsylvania upheld a new voter ID law in the state on Wednesday, dealing a blow to liberal groups and Democrats who had argued it imposes an unfair burden on many potential voters.
But the provision in Pennsylvania and others around the country, which Attorney General Eric Holder has likened to poll taxes, may not actually be a huge threat to Obama’s chances of winning reelection, despite Democratic concerns that minorities disproportionately don’t have photo ID’s.
Why not? First of all, most of the nine states with the strictest voting provisions, those that do not allow a person’s vote to be counted unless he or she has a valid picture ID, are unlikely to be heavily contested this November. (Here’s the list, from the National Conference of State Legislatures)
Mitt Romney is almost certain to win Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee, states where these laws are in effect. (In fact, despite one of these laws, Obama was the first Democrat in a generation to win in Indiana, suggesting strong Democratic enthusiasm can overcome them. His poll numbers have declined so much in Hoosier State that Obama’s campaign has largely written off the state.)
South Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas have all approved these provisions, but under the Civil Right Act, the Department of Justice must certify their laws won’t disproportionately affect minority voters. DOJ has rejected the laws in Texas and South Carolina and not yet given clearance in Mississippi.
In Wisconsin, a judge in March struck down a voter provision under state law, meaning it is not in effect either.
Currently, the only swing state where a mandatory photo ID law is in place is Pennsylvania. And the Keystone State, while a battleground, is a place Obama won by 10 points in 2008 and last backed a Republican for president in 1988.