Could New Voter ID Laws Really Disenfranchise 10 Million Latinos?

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler leaving his office in Denver
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Millions of Latinos may have a difficult time voting this year.

New laws that require voters show proof of citizenship and photo identification at the polls -- as well as recent voter roll purges -- could hinder at least 10 million Hispanics in 23 states who try to cast a ballot in November. The number of Latinos eligible to vote who might be blocked from voting this year is equal to the margin of victory in a number of states, according to a new study by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group.

Overall, 17 states have enacted laws that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting a ballot. Propoents have said the laws are needed to combat voter fraud, but civil-rights activists have countered that the laws are a political ploy on behalf of Republicans to limit turnout from minority voters who traditionally favor Democrats.

Lawsuits that challenge voter ID laws on the basis of racial discrimination in states such as Pennsylvania and South Carolina are currently pending in court.

Katherine Culliton-González, an author of the Advancement Project study and an opponent of voter ID laws, says those backing voter ID laws and voter roll purges back the laws "for their own partisan gain."

A record 12.2 million of Latino voters are expected to vote in Novemberand President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have campaign heavily to woo Latinos. But close to 23 million Latinos are eligible to vote and experts wonder whether higher turnout could change the electoral map.

Unregistered Latino voters could even swing some red states blue. According to the liberal Center for American Progress, 10 battleground states have a combined 12.1 million eligible but unregistered Latino voters and possibly-eligible Latino voters — green card holders who are eligible to become citizens and vote for the first time in November. In Florida, that number is 1.4 million — five times Obama's margin of victory in 2008.

But according to the Advancement Project report, casting a vote is difficult for many Latinos.

"Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites," reads the Advacment Project's report.

There were more than 21 million Hispanics of voting age in the country in 2010, according to the study, about 10 percent of all eligible voters and about eight percent of registered voters.

According to the report, however, 6.3 million eligible Hispanic voters said they were not registered to vote, and 10.8 million said they did not vote. In other words, nearly half of voter age Hispanics did not vote. By comparison, only 38 percent of non-Hispanic white citizens of voting age did not cast ballots.

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