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Public Statements

Voter ID in 2012

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing. Voting is a vital right of citizenship.

It seems today that in any election or in any discussion of voting rights, the terms "suppression" and "disenfranchisement" are thrown about, sometimes in a cavalier fashion. That approach is not helpful to protecting voting rights.

The history of voting in this country was expanded with great effort and sometimes with bloodshed. Those who opposed expanding the franchise to our fellow citizens sometimes used force and trickery. Comparing common-sense voter ID requirements, which enjoy the support of ¾ of the electorate and a majority of Democrats, to poll taxes or worse, trivializes the sufferings of millions of Americans who were denied the right to vote.

We also hear that voting should be expanded in any way possible, and the fewer the restrictions on voting, the better. We should never trivialize the efforts to expand the voter rolls, but we should make sure that those people who are on the voter rolls are entitled to be there. But fraud exists. And it will get worse if the only response is denial. And states are as justified in taking measures to deter potential fraud as to prosecute actual fraud.

Earlier this year, the Pew Center on the States issued a report that found that there are 24 million voter registrations in this country that are no longer valid or are inaccurate. Who can justify that? It concluded that there are almost 3 million individuals who are registered to vote in multiple states. Who can justify that? Tens of thousands are registered to vote in three or more states. Who can justify that? The study also identified close to 2 million dead people on the voter rolls. Who can justify that? NBC News found 25,000 names of likely deceased voters on the California rolls. Who can justify that? Some voted years after they died. One woman who died in 2004 voted in 2008 and 2012. Who can justify that? A man who died in 2001 has voted eight times since 2005. Who can justify that?

The New York Times recently wrote that in Florida, "absentee ballot scandals seem to arrive like clockwork…."

I am pleased that two secretaries of state are with us today. I welcome our fine Secretary of State Matt Schultz from Iowa. State election officials are well-versed on the procedures that are needed to run fair elections.

Conscientious state officials such as Secretary Schultz have sought to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls. Federal officials did not assist them in ensuring that legal votes are not diluted by the counting of votes from ineligible voters. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security did all it could to prevent maintaining the integrity of the voting rolls. We will hear that turnout rises when ballot integrity is fostered.

States have a fair amount of discretion in how they choose to run elections. Early voting has grown in popularity. But there is a cost even beyond a lack of a common civic engagement on Election Day. One of the issues with early voting is that circumstances could change or a new argument or deliberation could lead someone to later wish to have voted differently. There should not be a one-way ratchet in which states that experiment with loosening voting rules can never try another approach.

Of course, apparently neutral voting changes can hide bad motives. I voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. I remember as a new member of this committee in 1981, I told Senator Biden I wanted to help him get the reauthorization passed. Voting is the basis of our representative system of government and it ought to be preserved for all people. But, nobody's vote should be diluted by people voting who aren't eligible to vote.

Thank you for holding this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to the testimony.


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