|For Immediate Release
April 18, 2012
Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Constitution Subcommittee Hearing on
Voting Wrongs: Oversight of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Enforcement
Chairman Smith: The foundation of our democracy rests on secure and fair elections. Unfortunately, voter fraud undermines the electoral process and can sway the ultimate outcome of elections. Illegal votes negate the votes of legal voters.
Voter ID laws help ensure the integrity of our elections and protect the rights of lawful voters. So far, sixteen states have photo ID requirements for casting a ballot.
We must safeguard the integrity of our voting process in order to safeguard our democracy.
But rather than support common sense proposals to help protect our democratic process, the Justice Department’s Voting Section wastes taxpayer dollars in fighting the very laws that promote fair and accurate elections.
Photo identification is part of everyday American life. Citizens are required to show a valid form of identification to open a bank account, cash a check, drive a car, or board a plane. If valid identification is required for these daily tasks, then why is it not required to exercise one of our most valuable democratic rights?
Voter ID opponents insist that voter fraud is not a serious problem. But most voters disagree. The majority of Americans overwhelmingly support laws that require people to show photo identification before being allowed to vote.
A recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 64% of likely U.S. voters agree that voter fraud is a serious problem, while just 24% disagree. And 73% of respondents believe that a photo ID requirement before voting does not result in discrimination.
In fact, the Supreme Court in a 6 to 3 decision, authored by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, rejected the argument that voter ID laws are discriminatory when it upheld Indiana’s strict voter ID law in 2008.
In upholding the Indiana law, the Court cited flagrant historical examples of in-person voter fraud as well as the state’s administrative interest in carefully identifying who has voted.
The Court also noted the state may have a legitimate interest in requiring photo IDs for voters even without evidence of widespread fraud.
The Court’s opinion quoted the report for the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, which stated:
“The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.”
Most forms of voter fraud are difficult to detect, especially if photo IDs are not required. That same Commission report found voter fraud does occur and could affect the outcome in a close election.
Having lost in both the federal courts and the court of public opinion, you would think voter ID opponents would give up. But just last month, the Obama administration announced that it will challenge the Texas voter ID law, which is based on the Indiana law and was overwhelmingly supported by Texas voters.
The Justice Department also seeks to challenge a similar law in South Carolina.
The Department claims that the laws are discriminatory because minorities are less likely to have the required IDs. But a closer look at the Department’s math shows that their arguments simply don’t add up.
For example, in South Carolina, 90% of blacks have photo IDs compared with 92% of whites. So the Justice Department seeks to override a state law because of a difference of less than 2%.
The Department’s case against the Texas voter ID law is equally troubling. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez claims that the disparity between photo ID possession of whites and Hispanics is statistically significant. Data shows that 95% percent of white voters have photo ID, as do 93% of Hispanic voters.
Once again, the disparity is only two percentage points. Even that slight difference may be within the margin of error since Texas, in gathering some of the data, had to guess who is Hispanic based on surname.
Ironically, the Justice Department’s own policy requires visitors to show valid photo ID before being allowed to enter some buildings. If it takes valid identification to walk the halls of the Justice Department, then it should take at least that much to determine the outcome of our elections.
If the Department wants to protect the rights of voters, they should work to ensure that states remove ineligible voters from their rolls as required by federal law.
The rights of all voters should be protected and respected by the Obama administration. The misplaced priorities of the Department of Justice wastes taxpayers’ money and does little to protect the rights of legal voters.