Voter Registration Rules

Of the 34 states in the U.S. that have recently passed or introduced restrictive voting legislation, all but one is Republican controlled. The one exception, Rhode Island, has introduced what's generally believed to be the least restrictive rules of the bunch. And we have new voter ID laws in Canada as well brought in in 2007. Today, we take a look at the politics of these new voting rules. Are they, as supporters claim, a necessary step to prevent fraud at the polls, or are the critics right: Are the votes of significant chunks of the population being suppressed?

Three of The Current

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Voter Registration Rules - Lawyer Mimi Marziani

We started this segment with 86-year-old Darwin Spinks, of Tennesee. A determined voter. But when he recently renewed his driver's licence, he realized he might have a problem casting a ballot in the next election.

Darwin Spinks will be able to vote. But there are likely going to be many eligible voters denied the right to cast a ballot. Many states have begun to change their voter registration requirements. They're now demanding photo identification and reduced times for early voting or registering. The changes are meant to prevent voter fraud. However, according to groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- the N.A.A.C.P-- this means thousands of Americans could lose their constitutional right to vote. We heard from Hilary Shelton, senior vice-president with the N.A.A.C.P., who is convinced the changes are prompted by partisan politics.

The group plans to stop other States from bringing in similar measures, and fight to repeal voter registration changes already made. And in those States where they can't repeal the laws, they plan to make sure voters get whatever 's required. Our next guest has been tracking this issue.

Mimi Marziani is a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law. Her work focuses on money in politics, voting rights and legislative dysfunction. She was New York.

Voter Registration Rules - Heritage Foundation

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Previously he was a member of the U.S. Federal Election Commission and worked as a Justice Department lawyer enforcing U.S. voting laws. And he thinks the American polling booth needs these changes. He was in Washington.

Voter Registration Rules - Rose Henry

If the debate going on in the U.S. sounds familiar, that's because Canada's voting rules have also undergone changes. In 2007, the Conservative government passed a bill amending the federal elections act. The government argued that changes were required to prevent voter fraud and improve - quote - the credibility and legitimacy of the system. The changes require registered voters to prove their identity and residence before casting a ballot in a federal election. Rose Henry is an anti-poverty educator challenging the amendments in court. She was in Victoria.

This half-hour was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Ellen Saenger.

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