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Democrats push back against voter ID laws

(CBS News) President Obama and Democrats in Congress are pushing back against the new voter identification laws and requirements that Republican-led states have been busy implementing across the country.

The president's re-election campaign will shortly launch the website, an information hub designed to help voters meet voting requirements. Currently, the site asks lawyers to join the campaign's Victory Counsel, a volunteer legal team that helps Americans overcome barriers to voting. It also mentions a May voter registration "weekend of action."

As first reported on Politico, the site on Thursday featured a video telling the story of Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old Tennessee voter. In 2011, the Tennessee legislature passed strict new voter ID requirements. Cooper had trouble obtaining a voter ID card, even after presenting the four pieces of identification required.

More than two dozen states have passed strict voter ID laws since 2011. In the video, the Obama campaign's general counsel Bob Bauer calls the laws "corrosive."

"Around the country, under Republican leadership, various laws have been passed - all of them with the fundamental objective of impeding the right to vote," he says. Opponents of the laws say they suppress turnout among typically Democratic voting blocs, like students and minorities.

Supporters of the voter ID requirements say they're need to prevent voter fraud, even though there's little evidence of such fraud taking place. After Pennsylvania adopted a strict voter photo ID requirement, CBS News asked state officials how many people had been convicted of voter impersonation or voter fraud in the past five years. The answer was zero, CBS News producer Phil Hirschkorn reported.

While the Obama campaign organizes its efforts to mitigate the impact of the laws, Democrats in Congress are trying to roll them back.

Five Democrats in the House on Thursday unveiled the Voter Empowerment Act, a bill to strengthen federal rules that enable citizens to register to vote and protect them from voter intimidation. The bill was introduced by Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, James Clyburn of South Carolina, John Conyers of Michigan, Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

"Just six months from a presidential election and amid an unprecedented drive to impose new restrictions on who can vote in states across the country, Democrats will fight for the right to vote and for the integrity of our electoral system," Hoyer said in a statement.

If it were to pass, the legislation would require states to offer an online registration option, require same-day registration for federal elections and give universities funds to encourage voter registration among students. The bill would also authorize funding for training poll workers and make "voter caging" -- a means of calling into question a person's right to vote -- a felony.

The legislation is extremely unlikely to get through the Republican-led House.

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