Voter ID Legislation A Means to Discriminate Against Voters Say Opponents
September 21, 2006
This bill imposes new ID requirements on all voters in federal elections: 1) Starting in 2008, voters would have to present a government-issued photo ID, or send in a copy when voting absentee or by mail, before getting a ballot; 2) Starting in 2010, the ID would also have to show proof of U.S. citizenship. This would likely mean either a U.S. passport or the "REAL ID" card, which has yet to be implemented.
Of the 228 yes votes, 224 were Republican. Alaska Congressman Don Young was one of three Republicans voting no.
The bill's supporters said the bill will protect U.S. citizens' right to vote by eliminating the chance that someone who is not a citizen would vote - diluting actual eligible ballot results. But opponents said the bill has the potential to disenfranchise millions of voters.
During the floor debate, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said voting for the bill would protect "the sacred right" of voting for U.S. citizens while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., said the possibility of non-citizens going to vote is on the rise as illegal immigrants continue to come into the country.
"Fraud does exist and it still occurs in election," said Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., a main sponsor of the bill. "We use photo ID all the time; we use photo IDs to get on governmental property."
But the bill's critics said it would not protect the right to vote but instead would make it harder for certain citizens to vote and amounts to nothing more than a new age poll tax that will disproportionately effect the elderly, people with disabilities, rural voters, students, racial and ethnic minorities, the homeless, low-income people.
Congressman Young (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, "We voted for the Patriot Act and we voted for No Child Left Behind and both times the people have had problems with the outcome of these legislations. I have been consistent in my voting and I was determined not to be duped again. Although the title of this bill sounds good (Election Integrity Act) I looked at it and came to the conclusion that this bill would possibly disenfranchise a lot of Alaska's rural constituents. Under this bill everyone would be required to have a photo ID. If they did not have a driver's license or another type of government ID, then it would be a possibility they would not be able to vote. My problem with this is, the authors of this bill assured me that this would not occur but they could not show it to me in the bill itself."
"Alaska already requires voters to present an ID when voting; currently a photo ID is not required. There are challenges that rural Alaskans have especially in the smaller areas in obtaining a proper photo ID and to have this requirement imposed upon them just to exercise their constitutional right to vote would be wrong," said Congressman Young.
League of Women Voters National President Mary G. Wilson today strongly denounced yesterday's House passage of the"Federal Election Integrity Act" (H.R. 4844). "Some would have you believe that this legislation cures voter identity fraud," said Wilson. "But there remains a lack of evidence of instances in which voters misrepresent their identity at the polls." The league sent two letters to members of Congress over the past few months strongly urging them to oppose H.R. 4844.
It sounds good to stand on the floor of Congress and demand equality and fairness in elections, but when one takes a closer look behind the political smokescreen, it is clear that this bill's restrictions will disproportionately impact those who are least likely to have a current photo ID: the elderly, young people, people of color, rural voters and others," said Wilson.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "Supporters of this Republican voter suppression bill will claim this bill is about preventing non-citizens from voting. It's just the opposite. It's a bill designed to prevent citizens from voting." Pelosi called the bill a "modern day poll tax" because many seniors and the poor do not drive or could not afford the $97 needed to get a passport to show citizenship.
Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said, "Less than two months after the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the House of Representatives has chosen to pass legislation disenfranchising the very citizens the VRA was designed to protect. No eligible citizen should have to pay to vote. There are voters who simply don't have photo ID and requiring them to purchase one in order to vote would be tantamount to a poll tax. This measure will disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority voters, senior citizens, voters with disabilities, and others who do not have photo identification nor the financial means to acquire it."
In Georgia, a state Superior Court judge issued an injunction against a similar voter ID law. According to the Associated Press, a Georgia state judge rejected the latest version of Georgia's law requiring voters to show photo ID, ruling Tuesday that the measure violates the constitutional rights of the state's residents. Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. ruled that the photo ID requirement disenfranchises otherwise qualified voters and adds a new, unconstitutional condition to voting.
"Any attempt by the Legislature to require more than what is required by the express language of our Constitution cannot withstand judicial scrutiny," Bedford wrote.
League of Women Voters National President Mary G. Wilson said, "The League hopes members of the Senate will do the right thing for all voters by voting against this legislation and a return to the dark days of exclusion, which relied on such measures as literacy tests and poll taxes."
"Congress should not be playing politics with our right to vote. The League and our members in communities nationwide will work to keep this bill from passing the Senate and becoming the law of the land," said Wilson.
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