Thanks so much for joining me for this AMA - I am no longer taking questions.

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Hi Redditors! I'm Erik Opsal, communications manager for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and co-author of “The State of Voting in 2014,” ( With the 2014 midterm election right around the corner, I'm here to answer your questions on voting.

A series of court decisions in the past few weeks have changed voting laws in several states. These rulings come as many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November. Since the 2010 election, new restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states, and more than a dozen for the first time this year. I can answer your questions about current legal battles in the states, what’s happening with the Voting Rights Act, and give you information on how to vote this November.

I am joined here by Jonathan Brater, counsel in our Democracy Program, to help out with any detailed legal questions you might have (

More Background:


Comments: 63 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

dr054n5 karma

What do you think about voter ID laws? Do you think it's possible to implement them like countries like Canada already did?

ErikOpsal3 karma

In the last few years there's been a wave of very strict voter ID laws, which only allow certain kinds of government-issued photo ID to vote. Research shows 11 percent of Americans don't have this kind of ID. The problem isn't all voter ID laws. Many states have more flexible ID requirements, which allow a voter to prove their identity with other forms of ID, like a utility bill or a student ID card.

Unlike the United States, Canada has a national ID card.


EmpowerAlabama1 karma

Hi Erik! I work on voting rights in Alabama and the Brennan Center is such a great resource, so thank you, first of all. I had a follow-up question: what makes the Canadian national ID card different and/or better than the new photo ID laws in US states?

ErikOpsal2 karma

All Canadians are automatically issued an ID card. That doesn't happen here.

no_step2 karma

Could you elaborate on Canadians automatically being issued ID cards? I can't find anything about that, all I can see are Provincial ID cards.

ErikOpsal2 karma

Looks like I was mistaken on this. I apologize for the error. Canada does have a flexible ID requirement, which allows a variety of forms of ID to be used to prove one’s identity.

More information here:

ningrim3 karma

What is the minimum early voting period needed to ensure voting rights are not violated?

ErikOpsal3 karma

The Brennan Center put out a report on this last year, recommending two weeks of early voting, including evening and weekend hours. Here's the link:

DarwinWinner2 karma

Mayo or Miracle Whip?

ErikOpsal6 karma

Mayo. Obviously.

Flip__Side2 karma

What is your favorite movie and why is it Space Jam?

ErikOpsal7 karma

An intergalactic basketball game is a bad way of choosing leaders. This is why we have elections.

karmanaut2 karma

Is there any chance that this could change the opinions of judges (at any level) on limiting gerrymandering?

ErikOpsal2 karma

It's possible, but courts usually look at the facts before them in each individual case. Having said that, courts have found intentional discrimination in both voting and redistricting cases (in Texas, specifically).

karmanaut0 karma

How were they able to determine the intent?

ErikOpsal2 karma

There were a lot of factors involved. Here's a link to the Texas voter ID opinion, which has more on that:

ningrim2 karma

Are states with no early voting being challenged in court for voting rights violations?

ErikOpsal2 karma

No, but states that have cut back on early voting (Ohio and North Carolina), have been challenged. At least 32 states and DC have some form of early voting. There's more info in that early voting report I linked to above:

MichelleKCVotes2 karma

What is the state of voter registration in the country?

ErikOpsal2 karma

America has a ramshackle voter registration system. In the age of smartphones, we still largely use paper forms to register. We need to bring the system into the 21st century. This will increase accuracy, save money, and reduce the possibility of fraud.

Read more about our plan:

MichelleKCVotes2 karma

What are some of the impacts of the current registration system?

ErikOpsal1 karma

More than 50 million Americans are not registered, and 1 in 8 registrations are out of date or contain serious errors. Modernizing the system would help bring these people onto the rolls and increase accuracy and efficiency.

Stoooooooo1 karma

Are there any issues that have not gotten a sufficient amount of public notice?

ErikOpsal3 karma

Lost in the news about states restricting voting laws -- many states have actually voted to improve voting in the past few years. In 2013 and 2014, 16 states have passed laws to improve access.

See our interactive map:

WonkWill1 karma

Given the difficulty of overturning a decision like Shelby County via Amendment, and SCOTUS's unwillingness to uphold crucial sections of the VRA, what's our next step as citizens, as activists, and as future officials?

ErikOpsal2 karma

First, Congress has to act to fix the Voting Rights Act. Historically, this has been a bipartisan issue and should still be. As a citizen, you should urge your member of Congress to support the VRA and also contact your state legislator to modernize voting at the local level.

Here's a VRA petition:

And more info on voter registration modernization:

Axel9271 karma

Hey Erik! Paul here, hope you're doing well.

With the current composition of the Supreme Court, what are the odds that the Court will even hear arguments on voter IDs, early voting, and restoration of voting rights to those who have been convicted of a crime? Even if they hear those cases, how do you go about getting a decision that will limit these limitations on voting?

ErikOpsal1 karma

Hey Paul, good to hear from you!

The Supreme Court has already weighed in (on an emergency basis) in Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. One of those cases -- or the Texas voter ID case -- could make it to the Court for arguments. The Texas case revealed an extensive record of discrimination that will be hard to ignore.

thediz13961 karma

A great man once said "make it a great day or not, the choice is yours." What did you chose today?

ErikOpsal1 karma

It's a great day to register to vote, especially in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, and West Virginia, which have important registration deadlines TODAY!

Register here:

See our voting guide for more on registration:

thediz13961 karma

What are your thoughts on compulsory voting? Could you ever see it being enacted in the US?

ErikOpsal1 karma

We don't take a position on compulsory voting. We focus our efforts on making sure all eligible Americans can get registered and vote.

ckostrow1 karma

What is your response to people who say they don't vote because they don't feel they are educated enough on the issues?

ErikOpsal2 karma

I would encourage them to learn more about the issues and make their voices heard.

And watch this Lil Jon video:

stich091 karma

How strong have efforts by the two major parties been in issuing legal challenges and keeping third parties off of ballots? Any news of this?

ErikOpsal1 karma

ieatboogers1231 karma

Do you think Bill Clinton's crime bill legacy will negatively impact Hillary's chances in the 2016 election? Given its impact on mass incarceration and how widely that will discussed in the national election?

ErikOpsal1 karma

We'll actually have a post on our website on this very topic later today. Check back here for more:

rmh490 karma

In terms of the partisanship of particular restrictions, do y'all have data on how many of the strict voter laws (photo ID) were passed by Republican legislatures?

P.S. Love y'all's amazing work! Brennan Center is a go-to source for me on everything voting rights.

ErikOpsal1 karma

We don't have the number for just photo ID laws, but for the 22 states with new restrictions since 2010, 18 passed through GOP-controlled bodies. Read more here:

swimfan810 karma

Should people who don't believe in global warming be allowed to vote?

ErikOpsal8 karma

Yes. All eligible Americans should be allowed to vote. That's what democracy is all about.

JamalXX-4 karma

Aren't you really just an arm of the democrat party trying to get illegal aliens and felons the right to vote? While enabling people who claim to have no ID to be bussed around to 12 polling stations to vote over and over?

ErikOpsal2 karma

The Brennan Center is a nonpartisan organization that works with leaders from both sides of the aisle. For example, many of our voter registration modernization reforms were included in the report issued by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which was chaired by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's campaign lawyers.

Read the report here:

Regarding voting rights for people with past criminal convictions, we work with a number of conservatives, including Senator Rand Paul, who ardently support restoring rights.

More: Voting Rights