by Jeremy Leaming
Leading House Democrats are urging the Judiciary Committee to conduct a hearing on a raft of new state laws that they say could bar millions of voters from participating in next year’s general election.
Citing a recent report examining the new laws, passed primarily by Republican-controlled statehouses, Reps. John Conyers Jr., ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, are calling on Republican Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary Lamar Smith to “schedule hearings soon to address an issue so critical to our democracy.”
The lawmakers’ letter cites a report issued earlier this month by the Brennan Center for Justice that concludes that the set of new stringent voter registration laws could affect “more than 5 million voters ….” As The New York Times reported in early October, the Brennan Center study said the new laws “could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”
Many Republicans have long claimed that stricter voter registration laws are needed to confront rampant voter fraud. But the Brennan Center and Reps. Conyers (pictured) and Nadler say there is no evidence that such fraud exists.
The Brennan Center’s Executive Director Michael Waldman told The Times that the new laws are really intended to make it much more difficult for African Americans, young and poor voters to cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election. Waldman said the new laws represent “the most significant rollback in voting rights in decades.”
In a column for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and University of Virginia law school professor Risa L. Goluboff note the “ugly parallels between Jim Crow and modern vote-suppression laws.”
The letter from Conyers and Nadler noted that the provisions requiring photo identification, excluding common forms of identification, such as student IDs and social security cards, and requiring proof of citizenship raise the “most serious concerns.”
Citing the Brennan Center report called “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” the congressmen say the new voting law changes “will have a particularly significant impact on minority voters. The report concluded that African American and Hispanic voters were more likely to take advantage of early voting opportunities and register to vote through the types of voter registration drives now curtailed or eliminated by the new laws.”
The two continue:
Most critically, the Report noted that many of the new voter identification laws do not allow voters to present many forms of identification frequently used by minorities, the elderly, and the young. For example, the new Texas law allows for the use of a concealed carry gun permit to vote, but fails to recognize student IDs, Texas Veterans’ Administration identification and event Congressional identification. Further, Texas citizens must also spend $22 to obtain a birth certificate or up to $145 to obtain a passport to present the documentation necessary to acquire a form of ID required to cast a ballot.
The letter also cites examples “of the anti-democratic impact of these new laws….” The two report, for example, that under Tennessee’s new voter registration law a 96-year old woman was denied a voter registration card because her birth certificate included her maiden name, “rather than her married name.”
See the lawmakers’ entire letter here.