Statement Of U.S. Senator McConnell On His Amendment To Require A Photo ID To Vote

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: May 24, 2006
Location: Washington, DC

Statement Of U.S. Senator McConnell On His Amendment To Require A Photo ID To Vote

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell introduced an amendment to S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which would require Americans to show photo IDs before voting at the polls. He delivered the following statement on the Senate floor:

"Mr. President, throughout this debate we have been discussing what to do about the illegal immigrants in the country today and what to do about those who will illegally pass through our borders every day in the future.

"We have heard concerns, very valid concerns which I share with my colleagues, about how best to deal with the security of our nation, the impact on our workforce and our home states. The number of illegal immigrants which currently reside in the United States has been estimated at 12 million people. Mr. President, I rise today to express another area of concern which has not yet been addressed - voting.

"The United States Constitution secures the voting franchise only for citizens of our country. As close elections in the past have made abundantly clear, we must make certain that each vote is legally cast and counted. Imagine Mr. President, the impact of 12 million potential illegally registered voters.

"This problem was recently tackled by the bi-partisan Commission on Federal Election Reform - known as the Carter-Baker Commission named after the two leaders of the Commission, Jimmy Carter and James Baker. They recognized that clean voter lists are key, but even more important they note "election officials still need to make sure that the person arriving at a polling site is the same one that is named on the registration list." They note "Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important." Again, those are the words of Jimmy Carter, James Baker and their bi-partisan commission.

"Moreover, we not only need to ensure those voting are those on the rolls, but also that they are legally entitled to vote. As we said when we passed the Help America Vote Act a few years ago which I am proud to have been the lead Republican in the Senate with my good friends Senators' Dodd and Bond by my side, we want every one who is legally entitled to vote to be able to vote and have that vote counted but that they do so only once. In short, we wanted to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The key is to ensure everyone who votes is legally entitled to do so.

"The Carter-Baker Commission's recommendations on Voter Identification are:

• First, to ensure that persons presenting themselves at the polling places are the ones on the registration list, the Commission recommends that states require voters to use the REAL ID card, which was mandated in a law signed by the President in May 2005. The card includes a person's full legal name, date of birth, a signature (captured as a digital image), a photograph, and the person's Social Security number. This card should be modestly adapted for voting purposes to indicate on the front or back whether the individual is a U.S. citizen. States should provide an Election Assistance Commission template ID with a photo to non-drivers free of charge.

• Second, the right to vote is a vital component of U.S. citizenship, and all states should use their best efforts to obtain proof of citizenship before registering voters.

"So Mr. President, I offered an amendment to implement the recommendation of the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform to protect and secure the franchise of all United States citizens from ballots being cast illegally by non-United States citizens. Further, for those who cannot afford an ID, I have included a grant program in this amendment to make ID's available free of charge. The former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, supports the free photo ID as a way to empower minorities and believes that in an era when people have to show ID to rent a video or cash a check, requiring an ID can help poor people who otherwise might be even more marginalized by not having one.

"This is an issue which an overwhelming majority of Americans support. An April 2006 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked for reaction to requiring voters to produce a valid photo identification when they go to vote.

• 62% of Americans Strongly Favor requiring photo ID at the polls;

• 19% of Americans Mildly Favor requiring photo ID at the polls;

• 12% are neutral;

• Only 3% of Americans Mildly Oppose requiring photo ID at the polls;

• Only 4% of Americans Strongly Oppose requiring photo ID at the polls.

"Thus, only 7% of Americans oppose requiring photo ID at the polls while 81% of Americans support it.

"There have also been state-based polls conducted which concur that Americans overwhelmingly support requiring photo id at the polls.

• In Wisconsin, 69% favor requiring photo ID at the polls;

• In Washington state, 87% favor requiring photo ID at the polls;

• In Pennsylvania, 82% favor requiring photo ID at the polls; and

• In Missouri, 89% favor requiring photo ID at the polls.

"So Mr. President, the numbers are in and the vast majority of Americans support requiring photo identification at the polls.

"And why wouldn't they - as John Fund points out in his piece in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal a couple of days ago entitled "Jimmy Carter is Right, Amend the immigration bill to require voters to show ID," "Almost everyone needs photo ID in today's modern world." You need photo ID to drive a car, fly a plane, get a gun, catch a fish, open a bank account, get a library card, cash a check, enter a federal and some state buildings, and the list goes on and on.

"Mr. President, this is not a new concept. 24 states currently require some kind of photo identification at the polls. Further, thanks to the Help America Vote Act, photo ID at the polls is required for those who register to vote by mail and don't provide the appropriate information at registration. So some may ask if states are doing it, why should the federal government get involved. I would like to associate myself with the answer to this question given by Jimmy Carter and James Baker: "Our concern was that the differing requirements from state-to-state could be a source of discrimination, and so we recommend a standard for the entire country, the Real ID card."

"So Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to consider whether the protection of each and every American's franchise - a right at the core of our democracy - is important enough to accord it equal treatment to getting a library card or joining Sam's Club. Last I checked, the constitutional right to rent a movie or buy motor oil in bulk was conspicuously absent. However, the constitution is replete, as is the U.S. Code, with protections of the franchise of all Americans."

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