by Jeremy Leaming
Attorney General Eric Holder, earlier this week, signaled he is ready to challenge the efforts some states are taking to limit voting. Holder, in his speech at the LBJ presidential library, said states should take action to encourage more voters, not create barriers to participation in democracy.
“In 1965, when President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law, he proclaimed that, ‘the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless,’” Holder said.
“Since January,” Holder continued, “more than a dozen states have advanced new voting measures. Some of these new laws are currently under review by the Justice Department, based on our obligations under the Voting Rights Act. Texas and South Carolina, for example, have enacted laws establishing new photo identification requirements that we’re reviewing. We are also examining a number of changes that Florida has made to its electoral process, including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, as well as changes to early voting procedure, including the number of days in the early voting period.”
Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice, lauded Holder’s comments, saying, “We hope the Justice Department will enforce the law and protect the voting rights of all Americans in its assessment of new voting laws.” The Center’s “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” report released earlier this fall says the new restrictions could bar more than 5 million Americans from participating in next year’s elections.
Efforts by federal lawmakers to look into the onerous voting regulations picked up earlier this fall, when Reps. John Conyers Jr., Jerrold Nadler and House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer urged congressional hearings into the laws and sent letters to state officials calling on them to oppose “new state measures adopted over the last year that would make it harder for eligible voters to register or vote.”
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week joined the effort to counter the states’ restrictive voting measures, which have been pushed largely by Republican state lawmakers to dampen voter turnout of minorities. The senators introduced a bill this week that would “create tough new criminal and civil penalties for those who create and distribute false and deceptive voting information and campaign literature,” a press release issued from Cardin’s office states.