WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats alarmed by reports that new voter laws could bar some five million people from the polls are launching an ambitious online effort aimed at countering what they call Republican voter suppression.
According to a study published Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice, a string of laws passed in 13 states -- and proposed in 21 more -- could disproportionately suppress turnout of younger voters, minorities and lower-income voters. Those groups tend to pull the lever for Democrats.
The Brennan Center estimates that the new laws could affect some 171 electoral votes, including those of five swing states.
All but two of the new laws were signed by Republican governors and generated by Republican legislatures, prompting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to cry foul -- and start an effort set to launch Thursday aimed at preserving ballot access for voters who would normally be eligible to vote.
"In states across the country, Republicans have launched a deceitful, coordinated attack on voting rights and Democrats are committed to stopping them in their tracks," said Matt Canter, spokesman for the DSCC. The laws include provisions requiring photo identification and proof of citizenship, as well as restrictions on registration drives and reduced early voting.
Republicans have long complained about fraud in voter registration drives, infamously singling out the now-defunct ACORN, which had been extremely effective in signing people up for balloting. Many claims of fraud have turned out to be exaggerated, but nevertheless have sparked the slew of laws coming into effect for the next election.
The DSCC push will be in two parts, with an ad campaign and a website designed for people to report problems voting.
The campaign, dubbed the "2012 Election Protection Project," will feature online advertisements on Twitter, Facebook, Google and mobile devices. There will also be petitions and email outreach aimed at raising awareness about new restrictions and combating them.
The website will be named the "Election Protection Project Action Center," and the DSCC expects it to serve both as an information hub on potential voter suppression and a conduit to help voters register online.
"Voting rights for millions of law-abiding Americans are at stake," Canter argued. "We need to mobilize people now or else they will be denied the right to vote next November."
Also at stake could be crucial edges for Democratic-leaning states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.