Protect voting rights, senators say

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 7/13/2011, 3:58 p.m.

Millions of American voters who do not possess government-issued identification may not qualify to vote in certain states without such ID. Placing voters without ID in jeopardy has aroused a number of senators, who have consequently voiced their complaints with the Justice Department.

"We urge you to protect the voting rights of Americans by using the full power of the Department of Justice to review these voter identification laws and scrutinize their implementation," the senators wrote in a recent letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Wisconsin are among the states that require photo ID in order to vote. Recently, Texas and South Carolina also introduced such measures.

Senators, including New York's Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, believe that the requirement would directly impact racial minorities, senior citizens, low-income individuals and students, many of whom do not have government-issued IDs.

Many states have photo ID requirements, but voters are allowed to cast their ballots by presenting other forms of identification or affidavits.

A state law in Arizona that requires people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote is being challenged in Arizona by minority groups.

Federal law allows people to submit their voter registration through the mail and take an oath that they are citizens under penalty of perjury.

"The civil and human rights community welcomes the senators' request to the Department of Justice to examine state voter identification laws to make sure that eligible voters are not denied the right to vote," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Voting is our most fundamental right as citizens; it's the right that makes all other rights possible.

"Yet instead of making voting more accessible, these measures would deny voting rights to the 11 percent of voters who do not have government-issued identification-and an even higher percentage of seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, people with low incomes and students. That fact alone requires additional vigilance.

"The Justice Department must vigorously enforce our voting rights laws so that every eligible voter is permitted to cast a vote and have that vote counted," Henderson continued. "Our nation has come too far and has too much at stake to allow new forms of discrimination to suppress this fundamental right."