Four months away from a presidential election still considered a tossup, new battles are brewing over state election laws.
Opponents say the laws will depress voter turnout. Supporters say they're necessary to ensure fair elections.
In the most recent developments:
•A federal court in Washington began hearing arguments this week on whether a voter ID law in Texas discriminates against Hispanic voters.
•Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill last week that would have required voters to show identification before casting absentee ballots.
•The Justice Department rejected South Carolina's voter ID law for the second time, saying it could disproportionately affect black voters. The state sued earlier this year. A federal court has scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 24, just 43 days before the election.
•A judge ruled in June that Wisconsin's voter ID law violates the state constitution. An appeal is likely.
Attorney General Eric Holder is promising an aggressive effort to safeguard voting rights.
"The arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate," Holder said Tuesday at the NAACP convention in Houston. "It is what has made this nation exceptional. We will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress."
The Obama administration and national civil rights groups say state laws that require people to show government-issued photo IDs at the polls could deny millions of them — mostly minorities and the elderly, who are more likely to lack such IDs — the right to vote.
Supporters of the laws, mostly Republicans, counter that they ensure fair elections by preventing voter impersonation. They dismiss claims the laws will depress voter turnout.
"All you've got to do is look at the actual turnout in states like Georgia and Indiana, which have now had their ID laws for five years," said Hans von Spakovsky, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a top election-law official at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
A few years from now, "everybody will look back at the huge fuss about this and go, 'Why was everybody upset?'" said von Spakovsky, who also worked at the Federal Election Commission. "Because the laws would've been in place, people won't have had any problems (and) we won't have affected the elections."
Some election experts say there's little evidence to support either side's claims.
"Everybody wants to find out just how often voter impersonation really happens and everybody wants to quantify how many voters truly lack ID and do they really, truly vote Democratic more often than Republican," said Jennifer Bowser, an election-law analyst for the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. "That evidence is the Holy Grail in the world of elections this year."
Thirty states have voter ID laws, some of which date back more than a decade, according to the NCSL.
Of those, 11 states — including the crucial swing states of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania — require voters to show some form of ID. Five of the 11 states — Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — require government-issued photo identification, according to the NCSL.