Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is concerned voter turnout is at risk of being suppressed across the country — and thinks a spate of new state laws are to blame. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, called a hearing Thursday to examine laws that limit early voting, require photo identification and regulate who can volunteer for voter registration.
The senator pointed to Texas and Florida as states that have moved to restrict voter registration drives in the name of curbing fraud, but said such fraud is almost nonexistent and is used as an excuse to disenfranchise voters.
“Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring elections are fair and transparent are … American values,” said Durbin, who will send a letter to governors in Florida, Wisconsin and Tennessee about voter-related concerns in those states.
Not everyone shares Durbin’s concerns, particularly about strict voter identification laws. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) testified that requiring photo ID shows voters that the government cares who they are and values the time they sacrifice to fulfill their civil duty.
“We want to instill confidence in the process, to drive up turnout,” Rokita said, noting that Indiana has seen voter turnout jump by 2 percent since implementing a photo ID law.
Up to 12 percent of eligible voters don’t have valid government ID, and the number is higher for seniors, African-Americans, students, people with disabilities and those with low incomes, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.