House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (MI-14), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05), House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (NY-08), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Representative Bobby Scott (VA-03), Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11) today held a forum entitled "Excluded from Democracy: The Impact of Recent State Voting Law Changes." At the forum, chaired by Ranking Member Conyers, House Democrats joined voting rights groups to discuss new state measures adopted over the last year that would make it harder for eligible voters to register or vote and the need to protect voting rights.
"The loudest sound that exists in a democratic society is the voice of a voter in an election. Ensuring that every veteran, every senior citizen, every student -- whether born or naturalized -- has the right to vote should not be a partisan issue, it should be a legal and moral imperative of both parties," said Rep. Conyers. "Today, we are at a crossroads. For the first time since the Jim Crow era, we can go the way of making it harder as a society for minorities to register to vote, and harder and more expensive for minorities to cast their votes. Or we can build on the progress of the civil rights era to continue to enhance all of our citizen's access to the ballot."
"With a crucial election less than one year away, I am very pleased Rep. Conyers held this forum today to examine the impact of new state measures that put the voting rights of millions of Americans at risk," said Whip Hoyer. "The right to vote is fundamental to our entire system of government and we must do everything in our power to ensure that every eligible American has the right to participate in our democracy and make their voices heard."
"Election Day is almost one year away and we must make sure that people understand the serious consequences of voter suppression laws," said Rep. Cohen. "Voter ID laws have a disproportionate impact on certain communities -- students, seniors, the poor and minorities -- all of whom are less likely to have the kinds of identification required under a photo ID law. These laws have flown under the radar for far too long and I am glad we came together today to shine a light on them."
"Today's forum highlighted how some of these state voter laws are creating unnecessary procedural hurdles limiting a person's right to vote while doing nothing to prevent voter fraud," said Rep. Scott. "Congress must work to ensure that every American eligible to vote is able to do so free of burdensome restrictions."
"There is a concerted effort across this country to limit, suppress and undo our right to vote, and a certain predetermined segment of Americans are being targeted," said Rep. Fudge. "Young people, seniors, our disabled and minorities will all feel the repercussions of this effort. That's why it is so important that we do not remain silent."
"Our right to vote is under attack," said Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II. "Early voting days have been cut short, stiffer identification requirements are being implemented, and proof of citizenship is required - all of these policies are statically proven to impact people of color disproportionately. Shrouded in claims that these laws are designed to eliminate voter fraud, I strongly believe that these laws will in actuality only prevent our right to vote--an unacceptable consequence."
"Voting is a fundamental right vested to us by the United States Constitution. For many Americans, this right was not simply handed to us, but earned through hard fought battles," continued Rep. Cleaver. "Given the disproportionate impact that the voter suppression laws will have on African American voters, these laws are reminiscent of the poll taxes used in the Jim Crow South. We must act now --and the Congressional Black Caucus will, as the 'Conscience of the Congress' -- stand united and continue the fight against any laws enacted to suppress the right to vote for millions of Americans. This hearing was a first step, but there is more work to be done and the Congressional Black Caucus will remain steadfast in the struggle to protect the voting rights for all Americans."