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.

  • Elwood

    Wow, that constitution is older than Petey bird, and in much better shape.

  • Common Tater

    “…discriminatory and restrictive voter identification laws???”

    You might as well say that driver’s license laws are discriminatory and restrictive.

    Library cards are also discriminatory and restrictive.

    Alcoholic beverage purchase requirements are discriminatory and restrictive.

    ID requirements to get on an airplane are discriminatory and restrictive.

    Gun purchase laws are discriminatory and restrictive.

    The list goes on and on.
    So does Fortney – he is definitely an abrupt movement – you know: a jerk.

  • JohnW

    There are five components to the Great Voter Suppression of 2012:

    (1) Voter ID, (2) eliminating weekend early voting, (3) restricting voter registration drives, (4) selective polling place challenges by so-called poll watchers designed to either intimidate voters or discourage them by slowing down the lines so much that they get discouraged and leave, and (5) “guilty until proven innocent” purging of voter registration rolls.

    If Voter ID were a serious voting integrity endeavor, it would be implemented for 2014, giving people ample notice and opportunity to take care of things. Any moron can tell this is designed to affect the outcome in 2012.

    I listened today to a Washington Post reporter describe her visit to the Philadelphia DMV to observe what people attempting to get government issued ID were encountering. NOTE: Philadelphia has one of the highest percentages of non-driver adults in the country. She illustrated the situation with the example of a 54-year-old, lifelong resident and voter.

    First, with less than two months to go to the election and an estimated 18% (nearly one out of five) of Phily registered voters not having a drivers license (the only government issued photo ID most people have), there were no special lines or extra hours for people seeking photo ID for voting purposes. Second, with all the forms to complete and the waiting in line, it took more than four hours. The voter in this case was an employed woman who had to take a day off from work to get her ID. Did I mention that most of the people in this situation are black and/or elderly?

    There is virtually no evidence anywhere, and especially not in Pennsylvania, of voter impersonation fraud — which is what Voter ID is supposed to prevent. Most voter fraud, to the minuscule extent it exists at all, has to do with absentee ballots, which Voter ID does nothing about.

    My greatest fear is not that Romney will win. It’s that he will win, and the outcome will be directly and provably traceable to these carefully orchestrated voter suppression efforts in a few key states and counties. Should that happen, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. His presidency will be seen as the most tainted and illegitimate in U.S. history. It will be the most shameful thing since Jim Crow.