Voter ID laws helped contribute to lower voter turnout in Kansas and Tennessee in 2012,according a new study by the Government Accountability Office. Congress’s research arm blamed the two states’ laws requiring that voters show identification on a dip in turnout in 2012 — about 2 percentage points in Kansas and between 2.2 and 3.2 percentage points in Tennessee. Those declines were greater among younger and African-American voters, when compared to turnout in other states. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) requested the report in light of last year’s decision by the Supreme Court striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. The decision freed a number of states from a pre-clearance requirement to run all changes to voting laws by the Department of Justice.
Senate Democrats and Republicans sparred Wednesday over whether voter ID laws, attempts to purge voter rolls and restricted early voting were legitimate efforts to stop fraud or mainly Republican strategies to hold down Democratic votes. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican who recently turned Democrat, said the state GOP aimed its efforts at Hispanics and African-Americans. They cited as one example the elimination of early voting on the Sunday before the election, when members of those groups historically vote after church.
Ohio’s controversial new voting law will get some congressional scrutiny next week, when a top Senate Democrat convenes a field hearing on the measure in Cleveland. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democratic leader and chairman of a key Senate Judiciary subcommittee, announced Monday that he would hold a hearing on the law May 7 at the Carl B. Stokes United States Court House. Durbin, of Illinois, and other Democrats fear the Ohio law—and other similar state restrictions—are aimed at making it harder for citizens to vote in the November election, particularly lower-income and minority voters who tend to support Democrats. “A spate of recently passed state voting laws seem designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote,” Durbin said in a statement Monday.
Rhode Island: Why Did Liberal African-Americans In Rhode Island Help Pass A Voter ID Law? | The New Republic
At a Senate hearing on voting rights last fall, Democrat Dick Durbin pointed out that voter ID laws were nothing more than a coordinated Republican effort to block poor and minority voters from the ballot. It’s a familiar charge, and Hans Von Spakovsky—Heritage Foundation fellow and leading voter ID proponent—squirmed briefly, before finding an out: “I don’t believe that the Democrats in Rhode Island who control…the state legislature would agree with that.” There’s a reason voter ID supporters have turned Rhode Island into a talking point: Of the eight states to pass photo ID laws in 2011, only Rhode Island had a fully Democratic legislature and a liberal governor. What’s more, black and Latino lawmakers were among the most vocal supporters of the July bill. Since then, Republicans have been happily invoking the law to rebut liberal accusations that voter ID laws are reviving Jim Crow-era tactics to disenfranchise minorities. If voter fraud is indeed taking place in Rhode Island, it would lend some credence to GOP talking points. But does the Rhode Island law actually represent good faith electoral reform?
A congressional panel has agreed to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s request to investigate new voting laws passed by Florida’s Legislature. Sen. Dick Durbin sent the Florida Democrat a letter Tuesday, saying that he agrees the new laws will disenfranchise a wide swath of Florida’s young, minority, senior, disabled, rural and low-income voters. Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
Durbin says he is planning to hold a field hearing with his subcommittee to take a closer look at new voting laws in Florida and other states. Some of the new voting laws would reduce early voting days, impose new rules on voter registration drives and make it tougher to get citizen initiatives on the ballot.
Florida: Senator Bill Nelson wants congressional investigation of election law changes | OrlandoSentinel.com
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking that Congress investigate whether restrictive new voting laws in more than a dozen states — including Florida — are part of an “orchestrated effort to disenfranchise voters,” according to a letter released Tuesday.
The request by the Florida Democrat — who’s running for re-election in 2012 — follows a report last month by the Brennan Center for Justice, a watchdog group based in New York City, that found new regulations passed in 14 states, most them Republican-controlled, could make it harder for 5 million voters to cast ballots nationwide.
Nelson has requested that a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hold field hearings in the 14 states to see whether the efforts were coordinated and “to what extent such might be illegal,” according to a letter he sent to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
In the current issue of Rolling Stone, I examine how Republican officials in a dozen states have passed new laws this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process. It’s a widespread, deliberate effort that could prevent millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012. Congress is, belatedly, starting to pay attention, and yesterday afternoon Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, held a hearing on “New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?”
“I am deeply concerned by this coordinated, well-funded effort to pass laws that could have the impact of suppressing votes in some states,” said Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate.
“Rather than protecting right to vote,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a witness at the hearing, “we’re seeing a brazen attempt around the country to undermine it.” He pointed to legislation that would make it more difficult for citizens to register to vote or for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters, cut back on early voting, require government-issued IDs that specifically target young and minority voters, and disenfranchise ex-felons.
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.
Laws that require voters to show photo identification at the polls reduce election fraud, supporters of Tennessee’s new voter ID law told Senate lawmakers Thursday. Opponents of such laws countered that they target low-income, minority and student voters, who are more likely to vote for Democrats and might lack government-issued IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports.
Democrats and voting-rights advocates told members of the Senate subcommittee on civil rights that rural and elderly voters also could be disproportionately affected because they might have trouble traveling to get an ID. In Tennessee, voters over 60 aren’t required to have a photo on their driver’s licenses.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will chair a hearing next week examining the rash of voter ID laws passed by state legislatures this year amidst concerns that such laws could suppress Democratic turnout across the country.
Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, announced Friday that the Sept. 8 hearing will feature testimony from Judith Brown Dianis, the co-director of the Advancement Project; Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levittl; and former Bush-era Justice Department official Hans van Spakovsky, who’s now with the Heritage Foundation. It’s titled “New State Voting Laws – Barriers to the Ballot?”