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Letter to The Honorable Michael Mukasey, Attorney General

KENNEDY, COLLEAGUES URGE MUKASEY TO ENFORCE VOTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION

Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and colleagues from the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging him to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Marion County. In the decision, a majority of Justices rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana's requirement that voters must present photo identification in order to cast their votes, but the Court left open the possibility of future, as-applied challenges to the law and noted the concerns of many that certain groups of voters may be disenfranchised.

Others signing the letter include Senators Cardin, Durbin, Feingold, Feinstein, Kohl, Leahy, Schumer, and Whitehouse.

The text of the letter is below.

May 2, 2008

The Honorable Michael Mukasey
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

We write to urge the Department to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in light of the Supreme Court's decision this week in the voter ID case, Crawford v. Marion County. A 6-3 majority of the Court rejected a facial constitutional challenge to Indiana's requirement that voters must present a photo identification to vote, but left open the possibility of challenges to the application of the law, and made clear that the decision in the case was not a rubber stamp for all voter photo identification laws.

The Department of Justice has an independent responsibility to ensure that photo identification requirements in Indiana and other states comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Jurisdictions covered by Section 5 of the Act must demonstrate to the Department that such laws will not have the purpose or effect of discriminating against minority voters. The Department must also be vigilant in ensuring that no jurisdiction implements a photo identification requirement in a manner that dilutes minority votes, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

We're concerned that voter photo identification laws may be misused to suppress the voting rights of minority citizens. Because minority, poor and elderly voters are less likely to possess photo identification required for voting under such laws, they are more likely to be disenfranchised by the photo identification requirement and by errors in their application. The likelihood is high that errors will be made in the implementation of these laws, and qualified voters will be prevented from voting. Because such errors are more likely to affect minority voters, it is especially important for the Department to closely monitor the implementation of photo identification laws to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

We urge you, therefore, to take all appropriate steps by the Department to monitor the implementation of such laws in future elections and to notify the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorneys of their responsibility to do so.

We thank you for your attention to this issue that is fundamental to our democracy, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Patrick J. Leahy Edward M. Kennedy
Benjamin L. Cardin Charles E. Schumer
Russell D. Feingold Richard J. Durbin
Sheldon Whitehouse Herb Kohl
Dianne Feinstein


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