(CNSNews.com) - Americans who want to cast their first-ever ballot in the upcoming midterm elections will face increased difficulty registering to vote, and that will affect the outcome of elections both this fall and in 2008, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank at the NYU School of Law.
"There are far more barriers for voters than there were a year or two ago, and there are far more than there ought to be," Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center, said Wednesday. "Voter suppression strategies are in effect being tested out in a variety of ways this time. And we'll see them very widespread if they're not addressed now."
During a news conference at the National Press Club, Waldman outlined several "new voter suppression strategies" that allegedly will be used in 2006. Included in the list of activities that discourage voting were a "crackdown on voter registration drives" and "voting machine security."
Waldman argued that widespread voter registration disenfranchisement affects Americans personally. He also claimed that attempts to discourage voting will force the country into regression.
"[There are] new underhanded efforts to crack down on voter registration participation that will move the country backwards." Waldman claimed. "And you cannot say the country is moving forward right now.
"We see a real problem coming up right now in the November elections," he warned.
But Brian Darling, director of Senate relations for the conservative Heritage Foundation, accused the Brennan Center of political fear mongering.
"It's political. It's a scare tactic." Darling told Cybercast News Service. "These left-wing groups are trying to scare the American public into believing that their votes are not counting."
Darling argued that there has been no proof of voter disenfranchisement or fraud. He believes that many people are simply suspicious of voting technology that they have not used before.
"I think people feel a bit insecure, because they don't trust the technology in these voting machines." Darling said. "But there's been no proof that anybody's been disenfranchised by these electronic machines."
The cry of "voter disenfranchisement," Darling believes, is based more on theory than on actual experience.
"There are a lot of conspiracy theorists that talk about how these machines can be programmed," Darling said. "But there's been no evidence presented that's presented any actual case of voter fraud."
When asked for specific examples of voter fraud or disenfranchisement, Waldman responded that the Brennan Center's research did not take into consideration previous elections but was a study of what could happen in light of past complaints.
"Our study was [on] the potential rather than looking back at specific races." Waldman explained. "But the overwhelming conclusion of these scientists, in and outside of the government, was that the potential was very real and - where there's potential for fraud and motive - history would tell you that you've got to watch out."
"Elections aren't perfect, but they do their best," Darling responded. "It's disingenuous to think that there's some grand conspiracy to disenfranchise any element of the American public."
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