Restrictive State Voter ID Laws: The Real Threat to Voting Rights
Washington, DC, April 18, 2012
Today, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on “Voting Wrongs: Oversight of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Enforcement.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the Justice Department’s recent handling of voting rights matters, including the Department’s decision to challenge certain state’s restrictive voter identification laws. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement following the hearing.
"Since 2011, 15 states have introduced legislation that negatively impacts access to voting. Many of these state laws limit voting by requiring the presentation of photo identification. According to one witness today, Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice, that could mean up to 11% of legal voters may be barred from the polls. Furthermore these laws disproportionately harm student, elderly, and minority voters.
"One in four African Americans do not possess acceptable IDs. Some states, such as Texas, exclude some common forms of identification – such as student IDs – while specifically including others, like concealed carry permits, in an apparent attempt to favor certain classes of voters over others. Other laws limit or outright eliminate early voting opportunities which could disproportionately harm elderly voters.
"We should have used the hearing to discuss how these laws run afoul of the courts’ jurisprudence on voting rights and to explore the real problems that minorities, the elderly, young voters, and our brave men and women serving overseas are currently facing as they seek to participate in the democratic process.
"Supporters of these laws argue they are necessary to combat ‘voter fraud.’ But they can offer little real evidence for the widespread existence of such a problem. And in light of this Committee’s recent history of bipartisanship in reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, it is disappointing to see members defending laws that appear to have a real, measurable and negative impact on voter participation. The Committee should examine the real threat these laws pose to hard fought voting rights, not spend its time looking for evidence for a problem that does not exist."