A wave of state election laws poses the single greatest threat to democracy and civil rights in generations, a number of House Democratic leaders charged Monday. The lawmakers said the reform laws — including new voter ID and registration requirements — are politically motivated efforts from Republicans to suppress voter turnout, particularly in minority communities that tend to vote Democratic. They compare the new mandates to the poll taxes adopted by Southern states to discourage African-Americans from voting after the Civil War.
“We know that voter suppression has been taking place, is [taking] place and is planned [to affect the next election],” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Monday during a Capitol Hill hearing on the new laws. “We are witnessing a concerted effort to place new obstacles in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote.
“A poll tax by another name,” Hoyer added, “would smell as vile.” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), sounded a similar note, warning that states are “turning back the clock” to “ugly periods … where discrimination was commonplace.”