By Matthew Reichbach
United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that the Department of Justice is reviewing some new laws that could restrict the voting rights of citizens.
The Associated Press reported that the DOJ is investigating the voter identification laws in South Carolina and Texas as well as changes made in Florida which makes it harder for groups such as the League of Women Voters to register voters.
“We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law,” Holder said in a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. “If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Another focus could be reductions in early voting dates in some states.
In addition to South Carolina and Texas, six other states have passed more restrictive voter ID laws which some say will impede some — mostly poor, minorities and the elderly — from voting.
The Brennan Center for Justice found that voter ID laws are not only expensive for citizens but also expensive to state governments. Moreover, it found that a large percentage of Americans do not have government-issued photo ID.
“Studies show that as many as 12% of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID,” the Center wrote. “That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.”
Another Brennan Center of Justice study found that new laws could make it more difficult for up to five million Americans to vote.
A perfect example of this can be found in the case of 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper of Tennessee, which has grabbed national attention. She has missed voting only one presidential election since 1936. But now, thanks to a new voter ID law just passed in her state, she probably will not be able to vote again.
The Texas voter ID law is also controversial for a number of reasons. For example, it allows voters to use a concealed carry permit as a form of valid ID — but not a college ID.
Could New Mexico be next?
Secretary of State Dianna Duran has made implementing voter identification one of her trademark issues since elected last year.
Duran made headlines when she claimed that 117 foreign nationals were registered to vote in New Mexico and that she had proof that 37 had voted in recent elections in New Mexico. However, when asked to provide evidence, Duran refused and possibly violated the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
Duran issued a report in November that, according to veteran political reporter Heath Haussamen, reads “more like a commentary than an investigative report.” The report, according to Haussamen, “included no supporting documentation. No evidence to back up its claims.”
Last week, Haussamen said on Twitter he had extended an invitation to Duran or her staff to respond to his criticisms.
Three separate voter ID bills were introduced during the 2012 legislative session, but none made it out of committee before the end of the session.
National pushback against voter suppression
Yesterday, the ACLU filed suit against the state of Wisconsin over its newly enacted Voter ID law.
Last week, NAACP issued a call to pushback against attacks on voting rights and the impact of voter suppression attacks on communities of color.
In the rural South, many people of a certain age have no birth certificate because they were born to a midwife, thus for them, the barriers to getting a state issued ID without a birth certificate are especially daunting. In addition, many others are dependent on rides to the polls provided by church-organized Sunday voting drives, which have been shut down in some states.
Here’s a new video produced by the NAACP: