Kennedy on Voter ID
Today, Senate and House Democrats denounced Congressional Republicans' commitment to a voter identification requirement bill that would disproportionately impact the ability of minorities to vote. Senators Edward Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn, and Congresswoman Linda Sánchez spoke about the negative effects of the voter I.D. requirement on American democracy and voters in their communities.
Last week, House Republicans approved legislation that would place an undue burden on the voting rights of every American. The so called "Federal Election Integrity Act" (H.R. 4844) would require any individual who desires to register and vote in a federal election to purchase government-issued identification. Such a requirement could create a hardship on minority communities, the elderly, students, persons with disabilities, and members of various religious faiths. The burdensome and costly requirements of obtaining government documents not only could prevent many eligible voters from participating, but they also suggest to the American people that supporters of this legislation are trying to gain political advantage in future elections. Worst of all, this bill recalls a dark era in our nation when individuals were required to pay a poll tax to cast their ballot and has been termed a 21st Century poll tax.
"Instead of fixing the election problems that thousands of Americans have experienced first hand, House Republicans have forced through a partisan bill that undercuts the integrity of our election process. We need real election reform like the Count Every Vote Act to take practical steps to build a stronger democracy that is better defended against abuse, fraud and politics," said Senator Clinton.
"When I came to Congress I took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution which protects every American citizen's fundamental right to vote," Clyburn said. "That right was fortified over 40 years ago with the Voting Rights Act. Yet on the heels of renewal of the VRA Republicans in the House jammed through a divisive and destructive bill last week which would disenfranchise many of the very citizens that the VRA is designed to protect. I stand with my colleagues in the Senate to denounce HR 4844 and defend the principles of this great nation."
"This 21st Century Poll Tax is a Republican campaign stunt, designed to distract attention from their long record of inaction and incompetence on issues like the unending violence in Iraq, the economic strain on the middle class, and the lack of affordable health care," Sánchez said. "They prefer to block the voting booth for U.S. citizens than address the problems that really affect families in our communities."
"Our nation should be moving forward to help all Americans participate in our democracy. And forcing people to pay what amounts to a poll tax is not only outrageous and wrong but a giant leap backwards," said Dodd. "All of us want to ensure that elections are free from voter irregularities. But enacting laws that effectively allow some people to vote while throwing roadblocks in front of others is absolutely unacceptable. I intend to forcefully fight any effort to reverse years of progress made to ensure that all eligible Americans have an equal opportunity to case a vote and have that vote counted."
"Poll taxes are unfair, undemocratic, and unconstitutional," Senator Kennedy said. "I fought hard when we tried to end poll taxes in 1965, and I'm not going to see the Senate enact them in 2006. I say we leave poll taxes in the last century where they belong."