The ostensible repair came in the form of the Help America Vote Act, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress in 2002 and signed into law by President Bush. HAVA, as it was known, required states and municipalities to bring their election procedures into the 21st century, with electronic voting machines, improved methods of voter registration and better training of poll workers. But instead of an electoral nirvana, the new law ushered in an era of deep political contention, one that Retro Report succinctly describes as “voting wars.”

HAVA left it to each state to work out the details of its new rules, and that allowed for some elastic definitions of fair play. Some states rewrote their laws in ways that made it tougher for many people to cast ballots. Others eased access to the polls. California and Oregon, for instance, have shifted the burden of voter registration from the citizen to the state. Their residents are now automatically registered whenever they get new drivers’ licenses or have other routine dealings with government agencies.

While any generalization has its exceptions, it is reasonable to saythat states imposing new restrictions are commonly those where Republicans dominate. States choosing to enhance ballot access — such as by increasing the number of days for early voting — are typically in the hands of Democrats.

Republicans say their lone goal is to protect the integrity of elections by eliminating voter fraud, which they describe as widespread and, ahem, conspicuous in Democratic-controlled cities and states. Their solutions include shrinking opportunities for early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, forbidding former prison inmates to vote and, most important, limiting the kinds of identification that voters must use to prove who they are.

The impact of these measures falls notably on the poor, the young, African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities — groups that usually vote for Democrats. Civil rights groups say blacks and Hispanics are blatantly made targets, given that they are less likely than others to have certain approved types of ID, like drivers’ licenses or passports.

CLYDE HABERMAN, a regular contributor to Retro Report, has been a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for The New York Times, where he spent nearly 13 years based in Tokyo, Rome and Jerusalem. Subscribe to our newsletter here and follow us on Twitter @RetroReport.

This article first appeared in The New York Times.