"Voting is a fundamental right—and when we make our voices heard, we can keep moving our nation forward, building a fairer, stronger, and more just America." ~President Barack Obama

What Happened in 2008

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected President—an extraordinary moment made possible by unprecedented voter turnout, the result of efforts to expand access to the ballot over generations.

Access to the polls meant record turnout...

Republicans Respond

In 2011, a new movement to change the way we vote is underway. Unlike past reforms that sought to expand access to voting, this effort aims to restrict voting purely for partisan gain:

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." –Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

In 2011, Republicans control both chambers in 26 state legislatures—21 of those states also have GOP governors.

Download the full report »

Republicans Respond

"I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." -Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation

The GOP has bet the next election on a legislative movement intended to defeat President Obama and Democrats by changing the rules that govern our elections.

Republicans have introduced laws in at least 40 states that would make voting more difficult for everyone—especially for voters who supported President Obama and other Democrats in 2008.

GOP Tactics

In just this past year's legislative session, the GOP has led efforts to:

Target Voter Registration Drives
Cut Early Voting
Repeal Election Day Registration
Create Citizenship Challenges
Change the Electoral College
Pass Photo ID Laws

New restrictions create regulatory hurdles and burdens on voter registration drives, such as tight deadlines enforced by fines. It might be hard to believe that Republicans are discouraging voter registration drives, but look at who registers:

  • 12 percent of minority voters reported registering through a drive, compared to 6 percent of non-minority voters.
  • Minority voters were roughly 50 percent more likely to report having registered at a school or on campus.

Early voting expands opportunities to vote, enabling people who can't get to the polls on Election Day to make their voices heard.

  • The GOP has reduced early voting periods in six states.
  • In Florida and Ohio, GOP legislation targets early voting on Sundays.
  • In 2008, African Americans represented 13% of all Florida voters but 31% of the total voters on the final Sunday of early voting.

Election Day or Same Day Registration (EDR or SDR) allows eligible citizens to register to vote immediately before casting a ballot on Election Day or during early voting.

  • States with EDR have historically enjoyed voter turnout that's 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states without EDR.
  • In 2008, 1.3 million Americans voted using EDR.
  • Five of the six states with the highest turnout rates in the country each offered EDR.

These bills mandate that all voters present documentary proof of citizenship (such as a U.S. passport) before they can register, which creates an unnecessary burden—especially for voters who do not possess a birth certificate.

Non-citizen voting is rare and typically unintentional. From October 2002 to September 2005, the federal government prosecuted just 20 people in four states who were ineligible to register or vote under state law because they were not U.S. citizens.

The Pennsylvania Senate pushed a bill to adopt the district method of awarding electoral votes. The chief of staff to the Republican majority leader defended it, saying, "From a strictly partisan point of view, we are going to benefit."

A Nebraska state senator sponsored legislation to adopt the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, which would have given McCain all of the state's electoral votes in 2008.

Photo ID mandates are the most pervasive new restriction on the right to vote.

For more information, read on or download the full report.

Each tactic disproportionately burdens the same voters: youth, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, seniors, and Americans with disabilities.

GOP Tactics: Photo ID Laws

Photo ID mandates are the most pervasive new restriction on the right to vote. In 2011, Republicans have proposed these laws in more than 30 states, requiring Americans to possess and show unexpired government-issued photo identification as a prerequisite to voting.

Proponents of photo ID laws claim that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. But in reality, they are costly and unnecessary—and they disenfranchise voters.

Who lacks government-issued photo ID?

To Put it in Perspective

The Bush administration launched a multi-year investigation into voter fraud but found no evidence that it is a pervasive or serious problem.

Who's Affected?


Dorothy Cooper is a 96-year-old resident of Chattanooga. She was born before the 19th Amendment was ratified and grew up during the height of Jim Crow. She had never experienced any problems voting—until Tennessee Republicans enacted a photo ID mandate in 2011. In October, she went to her local driver service center, bringing numerous residency and identity documents. But Tennessee refused to issue her a photo ID because she did not have a marriage certificate.

To learn more about what happened to Dorothy Cooper, download the full report.

Who's Affected?


Almost all of the Republican photo ID mandates make it more difficult for students to vote:

  • In Texas, you can vote with a gun license but not a student ID.
  • South Carolina and Tennessee expressly prohibit the use of student IDs.
  • Wisconsin allows student IDs but has strict qualifications that no university ID in the state currently meets.

GOP photo identification mandates often exclude veteran's ID cards, making it more difficult for veterans to vote.

In New Hampshire, Republicans sought to prohibit military personnel from registering to vote at their base addresses.

The GOP effort to cut Election Day Registration would severely limit voter turnout among people of color. If implemented nationally, EDR could increase turnout by 12% for Asian Americans, 11% for Latinos, and 7.5% for African Americans.

Take North Carolina. In 2008, although comprising only 21% of total voters in the state, African Americans accounted for 36% of the voters that used Same Day Registration. Efforts in North Carolina to restrict early voting will also make it harder for African Americans, who accounted for 33% of ballots cast during the first stages of early voting.

Watch this video to see how GOP photo ID mandates make it more difficult for senior citizens to cast their vote.

Across the Country


Voter Reg. Drives
Early Voting
Election Day Reg.
Citizenship Challenges
Photo ID Laws

Democrats Fight Back

Democrats are fighting back.

  • In all five states where GOP legislators sent a photo ID bill to the desk of a Democrat, the governor vetoed the bill.
  • In Maine and Ohio, we've successfully organized around repealing GOP voting legislation.
  • We're committed to defending the vote with significant resources, training, organizing, and, where appropriate, litigation on behalf of Americans whose rights are violated.

Watch Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer get fired up about vetoing GOP voting legislation.

After months of organizing, voters in Maine and Ohio repealed GOP voting legislation in their states.



CONTACT THE VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE | 202-863-8000 | Twitter: @voterprotection