Press Releases

Joined by Six Members of Congress, Conyers Announces Continuing Investigation of Voting Rights

Detroit, MI, November 2, 2012

(DETROIT) – Today, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), joined by Subcommittee on the Constitution Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Subcommittee on Elections Ranking Member Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), along with Representatives John Lewis (D-GA), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), announced their intention to continue their investigation of state voting laws.  Building on the voting rights and voter suppression forums held across the country over the past year, the investigations will continue with direct inquiries to states which have enacted election procedures that have the potential to impair the right to vote for millions of citizens.

Over the past century, this country has expanded the right to vote and knocked down myriad barriers to full electoral participation.  In recent years, however, that momentum abruptly shifted and some state governments began to enact an array of laws that could make it significantly more difficult to vote.  Through photo ID requirements, cut backs on early voting and more cumbersome registration procedures, millions of Americans may be prevented from voting by these new barriers to the ballot box.

In announcing this investigation, Congressman Conyers issued the following statement:

“In the months leading up to the November 2012 election, the Department of Justice has expended substantial federal resources in delaying or overturning a series of measures that would have created discriminatory barriers to the ballot box that resulted from the wave of state initiated changes in voting procedures.  Currently, 37 states have introduced voting changes that have been cited to negatively impact the right to vote for over 5 million Americans," said Conyers.

“What is most alarming is that recent litigation over the constitutionality and impact of these laws has revealed that many minorities would have been disproportionately impacted had some of these laws taken effect.  Even in the state of Michigan, we face challenges to voting by an attempt to impose an administrative requirement to reaffirm citizenship. I remember the days of Jim Crow laws and the victories of the Civil Rights Movement and firmly believe that a thorough Congressional investigation is absolutely necessary to ensure that this nation does not return to the days of poll taxes and literacy tests.”

“After generations of Americans struggled, fought, and died for the simple right to vote, we are not going to sit by as extremists attempt to strip that right away,” said Ranking Member Nadler.  “The arguments from rightwing legislators may be more cleverly disguised now, but their goal in states across the country is the same as always:  to fix elections in their own favor by preventing people from voting.  We will continue to expose these nefarious acts and work to protect the franchise for all Americans equally.”

“Voting is a fundamental right that every eligible American is entitled to—not a privilege reserved for a select few—and efforts to deny that right are criminal and offensive,” said Ranking Member Cummings.  “Private citizens can and do play a legitimate role in ensuring transparency and accountability at the polls, but efforts to challenge thousands of voters across the country without any legitimate basis could constitute illegal voter suppression.  Election officials need to be vigilant in their efforts to protect against intimidation and unlawful challenges this Election Day, and help ensure that no legitimate voter is turned away.”

“We urge every state to make early voting, absentee voting, and Election Day a smooth process for everyone seeking to cast a ballot.  Many of our recent federal election laws have been the product of bipartisan reflection on the successes and failures of election practices at the state level.  The Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and the Help America Vote Act are fine example of this process, and have helped ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to cast an equal and effective ballot.  We hope the states share our concerns and will therefore fully cooperate with our investigation to ensure the highest level of election integrity, and that every voter has the right to equal access to the ballot box.”