Pols decry voter ID laws on Constitution Day

Two Bay Area members of Congress used the Constitution’s birthday today as an occasion to decry voter ID laws – which they call voter-suppression efforts – in some crucial presidential swing states.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, issued a statement noting that the U.S. Constitution, at 225 years old, “is the most enduring government charter in world history.” It laid out our national ideals including the right to vote, and that right has been expanded and protected since then, he wrote.

Pete Stark (photo by Aric Crabb)“Unfortunately, voting rights are now at risk due to a series of discriminatory and restrictive voter identification laws enacted at the state level,” Stark said. “If these un-American laws stand, they will impede the democratic process and prevent many Americans from exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

Republican-led legislatures in more than a dozen states have enacted strict new voter ID laws since 2008, claiming they’ll crack down on fraud; Democrats say the laws aim to keep millions of minority, elderly, poor and other voters from casting ballots.

Stark said he’s a proud cosponsor of HR 5799, the “Voter Empowerment Act of 2012” by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., which he said “would protect voters’ rights and ensure the integrity of our electoral system. I will continue fighting to protect the right to vote and work to ensure that all eligible citizens are able to participate in our democracy.”

HR 5799 among other things requires states to offer online voter registration; promotes same-day registration; creates requirements for states to promote registration and voting access for the disabled; and prohibits state and local officials from preventing a person from registering or voting in any federal election, or from allowing certain kinds of formal challenges to someone’s registration or eligibility to vote.

Also among that bill’s 140 cosponsors is Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, who had an op-ed piece published today on the Huffington Post and The Hill taking Republicans to task for attacking constitutional voting rights.

honda.jpg“The Republican attacks on these amendments, and their attacks on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, aim to cut the legs of citizenship from beneath us. Republicans are prohibiting access to the ballot for minorities, the elderly and young people who have been, and continue to be, historically disenfranchised,” Honda wrote. “We have fought these fights before, and it’s shameful that we have to still fight for these rights today. But fight we will. If we can vote, then we must register. If we can share time, then we must volunteer. If you believe in preserving access to our democracy, then we must speak out.”

Congress and state lawmakers should be educating citizens “instead of road blocking citizenship rights for which thousands have fought and died. We must be educating on pathways to citizenship, not restricting individuals from access to our democracy. Early voting, absentee ballots and in-language assistance are all key pillars of voting, and it is unfortunate that Democrats have to fight tooth and nail to retain them.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.