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How new voter ID laws may affect the 2016 presidential contest

17 states will have new voting regulations in place for the presidential election this November. 12 states will join the ranks of those requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID, including North Carolina and Texas. For more insight on these new regulations, Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Reuters National Affairs Editor Jason Szep.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Seventeen states will have new voting regulations in place for the presidential election this November. Twelve states will join the ranks of those requiring voters to show a government-issued photo I.D., including Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas.

    And in Kansas and Ohio, some voters are being removed from the rolls.

    For some insight into these new regulations, yesterday, I spoke with Reuters national affairs editor Jason Szep.

    You know, the idea that new voter I.D. laws have been coming on the books, I mean, this is something that we have been hearing about really almost since President Obama got into office. What's the difference now?

  • JASON SZEP, National Affairs Editor, Reuters:

    Well, the big difference now is, 2013, you had a Supreme Court decision, the Shelby decision.

    Since the Shelby decision, states no longer have to clear the — any kind of changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice. So, we're seeing a lot more changes to the laws, a lot more friction over this issue in a number of states and a lot more litigation now over this issue.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What's happening in Ohio that's different this cycle?

  • JASON SZEP:

    Well, Ohio has a law on its books. It's had this law on its books for quite some time.

    And this is a law that essentially means, if you haven't voted for three elections, you will automatically be purged from the voter registration rolls. Now, this law has been on the books for quite some time, but what's different this year is, in 2008, you had huge turnout. It was a historic election.

    You had a very large number of African-Americans voting. And if those — those voters, many of those voters are what we call — are what are called infrequent voters — sat out the next few elections, when they go to the polls this time, they will find that they're not registered.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, what about in Kansas? You have to prove that you're a citizen before you can vote. Why has it become so difficult?

  • JASON SZEP:

    The requirements to register in all states are, for the most part, you show an I.D., and you sign a document that basically swears that you're a citizen.

    What's happening in Kansas is that they have taken it a step further, and required proof of citizenship. And there are actually three states that have this law on their books, Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama.

    And a lot of young voters were getting caught up in this. A lot of young voters wouldn't necessarily have the kind of proof of citizenship documents that they might need when they go and register at a local sort of DMV.

    There has been litigation around this. A court ruled in May that the DMVs should no longer require you to have your proof citizenship, but, in Kansas, that — the law is still in effect in other areas. It's still in effect, for example, if you wanted to mail in your registration or if you want to a different location.

    It's kind of — it's led to the sort of two-tier — what is called a two-tier sort of voting system, where some people are required to show their proof of citizenship, some aren't, where some people have the ability to vote in state elections and some can't.

    County officials have described a sort of — sort of a sense of chaos around this. But it has been litigated. And I think the concern from the Democratic Party, the people that we have spoken to on this, is that there's a concern that it will be used as a template in other states, this would be rolled out, and that, again, it could sort of affect mostly younger voters and unaffiliated voters.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is this focused on race or is this focused on party?

    For example, in Texas, you can use your conceal-carry permit, but you can't use your state-issued student I.D.

  • JASON SZEP:

    I mean, the answer to that really is — is — depends on who you talk to.

    The Democrat Party officials will say, well, look, it has a lot to do with race, and that has in turn a lot to do with party. But if you talk to the Republican Party officials in a number of states, they will say, look, this is really about fraud, and there are concerns about voter fraud and tightening the restrictions to prevent that from happening.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Jason Szep of Reuters, joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

  • JASON SZEP:

    Thank you.

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