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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee - The Citizens United Court and the Importance of the Voting Rights Act

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.

President Obama's former spokesman criticized the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, saying, "[T]his decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections -- drowning out the voices of average Americans."

But the President's criticism really is of the Constitution itself.

As the Supreme Court wrote as long ago as 1976, "[T]he concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment."

Since that time, individuals have exercised their constitutional right to spend unlimited funds on campaign speech. I do not recall anyone on the other side complaining in 2004 that George Soros was "drowning out the voices of average Americans."

Citizens who meaningfully participate in politics and seek to influence popular opinion often must exercise their freedom of association. There are many organizations who can contribute to public debate, from all parts of the political spectrum. Media corporations should not be the only corporations using corporate funds to influence political debate. Too many people on the other side of the aisle want to limit who can speak and how much they can speak.

Following Citizens United, the 2010 elections were very competitive. Turnout was high in this year's Wisconsin recall election, where a variety of corporations, unions, and individuals made independent expenditures.

Yet, the Obama Administration has argued that the government can ban a book paid for by corporate or union funds that expressly advocated the election or defeat of a candidate.

Just as the Constitution defends the freedom of speech, it also protects the right of eligible voters to cast ballots.

Obviously, an important part of that right is preventing the dilution of those votes by stopping ineligible voters from casting ballots. Yet, as states have sought to vindicate that right, so important to public confidence in elections, the Obama Administration has fought them repeatedly. Disregard those who say that voter fraud does not exist.

In Iowa, the Secretary of State compared drivers' license applications, which indicated citizenship, with voter registrations.

He found that 3500 foreign nationals -- all of them ineligible to vote -- were registered in the state since 2008. Twelve hundred of these individuals voted in 2010.

The submission of false registrations is a crime in Iowa. And knowingly voting or attempting to vote where one is not qualified to do so is a felony.

We hear over and over again from the other side that there are few prosecutions of voter fraud. Just because there aren't many prosecutions doesn't mean fraud or ineligible voting doesn't exist. Iowa is the latest proof of this. But there have also been prosecutions we never hear about.

When Iowa's Secretary of State attempted to use a database from the Department of Homeland Security to determine who may or may not be a non-citizen, DHS dragged its feet in providing access to that list.

The Secretary of State is seeking to confirm the citizenship status of voters where questions arise. He has developed a four-step process designed to ensure fairness and to protect the right of eligible citizens to vote.

The process has been challenged in court on procedural grounds. I am pleased to say that Iowa's Attorney General, a Democrat, is defending that process, since it will keep ineligible individuals from voting while ensuring safeguards to protect those who are entitled to vote.

In Minnesota, 113 individuals were prosecuted and convicted for knowingly casting a vote in 2008 despite their ineligibility.

Fraud exists.

The 1200 ineligible voters in Iowa in the last election was more than twice the margin by which President Bush won Florida in 2000. In a close election, the level of fraud that we know exists can determine the outcome. This is as unacceptable as turning away eligible voters.

The Obama Administration is fighting every effort to prevent illegal aliens and other non-citizens from voting. And it is failing to make sure that an important group of citizens is entitled to exercise their right to vote.

A recent Inspector General report shows that the Defense Department is failing to take the steps required by law to ensure that members of the armed forces can register and vote.

This Administration should not -- and should be careful to not appear -- to take differing administrative or legal actions depending on the perceived partisan status of the potential voters involved.

In a Washington Post poll last month, 74 percent of those surveyed expressed support for voter ID requirements at polling places.

Voters overwhelmingly recognize that in a society in which people must show photo ID to board a plane, they should have to show photo ID to vote. It is plain common sense. They support keeping aliens from voting in federal elections by comparing voter rolls to citizenship information.

They deserve an administration that will not use the power of the Justice Department and DHS to enhance the chances for dilution of their legitimate votes by those who cannot legally cast a ballot.

I look forward to today's hearing.


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