Democrats are facing a major roadblock in their bid to hang onto the Senate in the November elections – new voting restrictions that could cost them key seats in close races.
The restrictions include a shorter timeline for early voting, tighter identification requirements, and fewer registration opportunities, according to The New York Times.
The Obama administration and civil rights groups have accused the GOP of bringing in the voting restrictions in various states as a means of hurting Democratic turnout in the run-up to elections, as well as on Election Day.
The early voting restrictions are especially likely to be detrimental to Democrats, who depend on various groups, including blacks, Hispanics, young people, and single women, to defeat the GOP. Traditionally, Democrats have lower turnouts during midterm elections, and the restrictions might exacerbate the problem, the Times reported.
Eight states have reduced early voting times, with three of them vital to the GOP’s bid to regain control of the Senate, the newspaper reported, citing a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is under pressure after state officials cut back early voting to 10 days from 17 days, while North Carolina State and Appalachian State university students are no longer allowed to vote early, much to their annoyance.
"You could be looking at a drop of 5 percent to 10 percent in the early vote," said Morgan Jackson, a Raleigh-based Democratic strategist. "It could make a big difference."
In 2008, early voting, especially among African Americans, resulted in President Barack Obama becoming the first Democrat in three decades to carry North Carolina in a presidential vote, the Times noted.
Calling it "voter suppression," Hagan has suggested that her Republican rival, state House Speaker Thom Tillis attempted to tip the vote in the GOP’s favor because he pushed through the new voting law in the state’s legislature, the Times reported.
"It’s a shame that Tillis has made it much harder for people to exercise their constitutional rights that people fought and died for," said Hagan, who has urged Attorney General Eric Holder to fight the legislation in court.
In Georgia, where Democrat Michelle Nunn is battling GOP opponent David Perdue for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, state officials have cut early voting to 21 days from 45, according to the Times.
And in West Virginia, where Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is running against Democrat Natalie Tennant for the seat of departing Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, state officials cut early voting to 10 days from 17.
But the Times pointed out that voting restrictions could result in a backlash against the GOP, by mobilizing Democrats who feel their rights are being impinged upon. In fact, in 2012, Obama won battleground states Florida and New Hampshire, where new limits had been introduced.
Counting absentee ballots and early voters, one-third of all ballots will be cast before Nov. 4, the Times reported.
On Friday, North Carolina will send out absentee ballot forms, closely followed by Alaska and Georgia, while residents in Iowa can start voting on Sept. 25.
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