Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

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



Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, throughout this debate on immigration, we have been discussing what to do about illegal immigrants in the country today and what to do about those who will illegally pass our borders every day in the future. We have heard very valid concerns, which I share with my colleagues, about how best to deal with the security of the Nation. The number of illegal immigrants who currently reside in the United States has been estimated, as we all know, to be about 12 million people.

I rise today to express another area of concern which has not yet been addressed by the amendments thus far--that is voting. The U.S. 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 the impact of 12 million potentially illegal registered voters.

This problem was recently tackled by a bipartisan commission on election reform, which was chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker. This was referred to as the Carter-Baker commission, named after these two American leaders.

They recognized that clean lists are key, but even more importantly they note that ``election officials still need to make sure that the person arriving at the polling site is the same one that is named on the registration list.'' They note that ``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 bipartisan commission.

Moreover, we not only need to ensure that 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, on which I was proud to be the lead Republican, along with my good friend from Missouri, Senator Bond, and Senator Dodd, who was chairman of the Rules Committee at the time, the leader on the Democratic side, we want everyone who is legally entitled to vote to be able to vote and have that vote counted but to do so only once. In short, we wanted to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The key is to ensure that 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 and signed by the President in May of 2005, just a year ago. The card includes a person's full 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 identification with a photo to nondrivers free of charge.

Second, the commission said 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.

That is precisely what my amendment does--implements the recommendations of the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform to protect and secure the franchise of all U.S. citizens from ballots being cast illegally by non-U.S. citizens. Further, for those who cannot afford an identification, I have included a grant program within this amendment to make identifications available free of charge.

Former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, supported the free photo identification as a way to empower minorities and believes, in an era where people have to show identification to rent a video or cash a check, requiring an identification can help poor people who otherwise might be even more marginalized by not having such a photo identification.

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

Only 7 percent of Americans oppose requiring photo identification at the polls; 62 percent of Americans strongly favor requiring photo identification at the polls; 19 percent of Americans mildly favor photo identification at the polls; 12 percent are neutral; only 3 percent of Americans mildly oppose requiring photo identification at the polls; only 4 percent strongly oppose. So collapsing those numbers as we frequently do with polls, 81 percent of Americans favor photo identification at the polls, across the philosophical spectrum in our country.

As the chart indicates, only 7 percent are opposed. Not only is the Carter-Baker commission on record as supporting photo identification at the polls, the American people are overwhelmingly on the side of photo identification at the polls.

There have also, interestingly enough, been some State-based polls conducted which concur that Americans overwhelmingly support requiring photo identification at the polls. In Wisconsin, 69 percent favor requiring photo identification at the polls. In Washington State, 87 percent favor requiring photo identification at the polls. In Pennsylvania, 82 percent favor requiring photo identification at the polls. In Missouri, 89 percent favor requiring photo identification at the polls.

The numbers make it clear the vast majority of Americans support requiring photo identification at the polls. Why wouldn't they? As John Fund pointed out in his piece in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago, entitled ``Jimmy Carter is Right, Amend the Immigration Bill to Require Voters to Show ID'':

Almost everyone needs a photo ID in today's modern world.

You need photo identification to drive a car, fly a plane, get a gun, catch a fish, open a bank account, cash a check, enter a Federal and some State buildings, and the list goes on and on.

This is not a new concept. Twenty-four States already require some kind of photo identification at the polls. Further, thanks to the Help America Vote Act, photo identification at the polls is required by those who register to vote by mail and don't provide the appropriate information at registration.

Some may ask, if States are doing it, why should the Federal Government get involved? I associate myself with the answer to this question given by Jimmy Carter and James Baker. Here is what they had to say about whether we should simply leave this up to the States:

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, Real ID Card.

I urge my colleagues to consider whether the protection of each and every American's franchise, a right at the very 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 United States Code, with protections of the franchise for all Americans.

I will have three articles printed in the RECORD, but I will take a couple of minutes to highlight some of the very important points raised in these articles.

The first article, entitled ``Jimmy Carter Is Right, Amend the immigration bill to require voters to show ID'' appeared Monday in the Opinion Journal written by John Fund in which he notes:

Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador, believes that in an era when people have to show ID to rent a video or cash a check, ``requiring ID can help poor people who otherwise might be even more marginalized by not having one.

Mr. Fund goes on to note:

The Carter-Baker commissioners recognized that cost could be a barrier to some and thus recommended that identification cards be provided at no cost to anyone who needed one. They also argued that photo ID would make it significantly less likely that a voter would be wrongly turned away at the polls due to out-of-date registration lists or for more malicious reasons.

This amendment does just that, provides grants to States so that anyone who wants an ID can get one free of charge.

Lastly, and most importantly for this immigration debate, Mr. Fund states:

The man who in 1994 assassinated Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosino in Tijuana had registered to vote at least twice in the U.S. although he was not a citizen. An investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service into alleged fraud in a 1996 Orange County, California congressional race revealed that ``4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in the disputed election between Republican Robert Dornan and Democrat Loretta Sanchez.

The second article is written by Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta on September 30, 2005 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which he states:

At the end of the day, a photo ID is a true weapon against the bondages of poverty. Anyone driving through a low-income neighborhood sees the ubiquitous check-cashing storefronts, which thrive because other establishments, such as supermarkets and banks, won't cash checks without a standard photo ID. Why not enfranchise the 12% of Americans who don't have drivers' licenses or government-issued photo IDs.

The last article is co-authored by Jimmy Carter and James Baker and appeared in the September 23, 2005, New York Times, in which they observe:

In arguing against voter ID requirements, some critics have overlooked the larger benefits of government-issued ID's for the poor and minorities. When he spoke to the commission, Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, supported the free photo ID as a way to empower minorities, who are often charged exorbitant fees for cashing checks because they lack proper identification. In a post/911 world, photo ID's are required to get on a plane or into a skyscraper.

I ask unanimous consent those three articles to which I just referred be printed in the RECORD at this point.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
[From the Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2006]


[From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 30, 2005]


[From the New York Times, Sept. 23, 2005]


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, there is a great debate going on in the Democratic Party on this issue. We have Jimmy Carter and Andrew Young on one side and, from the comments I have heard this morning, I gather colleagues from Massachusetts and Connecticut and Illinois on the other. It is an interesting debate among Democrats as to whether we should have this important ballot integrity measure.

My good friend from Massachusetts mentioned Georgia. They have photo identification in Georgia. That might explain why there were no reported cases by the Georgia Secretary of State of a problem. My good friend from Illinois declared that voter fraud was not a problem in America. I am sure he is familiar with Cook County in his own State, as Senator Bond has discussed regarding St. Louis and his State.

Let me take anyone who may doubt to eastern Kentucky. Voter fraud is a significant problem in America. And with a lot of new people coming in, many of them illegal, it raises the stakes to protect the integrity of the vote in this country. Every time somebody votes illegally, they diminish the quality and the significance of the votes of American citizens. This is not just Republicans making this point. This is some of the most significant Democrats in America today. President Jimmy Carter and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young believe that photo identification is absolutely critical.

With regard to the suggestion that there have been no hearings, we had numerous hearings in the Committee on Rules prior to passage of HAVA in 2002. The Baker-Carter commission had 21 members, 11 staff members, 25 academic advisors, 24 consulted experts in the field, two public hearings, advice from 22 witnesses, followed by three meetings and presentations spanning the country from LA to the District of Columbia, all of which produced a 104-page report in encapsulating 87 detailed recommendations to improve elections. There have been plenty of hearings on this subject.

The question is, on a measure which will guarantee that the number of illegals in America will continue to increase unless we are serious about border security, do we care about the franchise and diminishing the significance of the franchise of existing American citizens. We have engaged in a good discussion this morning on what this amendment does and does not do. It gives States the flexibility to design an identification to be shown at the polls to protect and secure the franchise of all U.S. citizens from ballots being cast illegally by non-U.S. citizens. Yes, the content standards of the REAL ID are the template but just the template.

And, last, the Federal Government will pay for any low-income Americans who do not have a photo identification, which is exactly the point that Andrew Young was making about how important that was for low-income Americans to finally have a photo identification so they can function in our society, which increasingly requires photo identification for almost everything--check cashing, getting on a plane, getting a fishing license, you name it, photo identification is required. It is nonsense to suggest that somehow photo identification for one of our most sacred rights, the right to participate at the polls, to choose our leadership, should not be protected by a requirement that is increasingly routine in almost all daily activities in America today.

If you support this amendment, then that puts you in the same camp with Jimmy Carter, James Baker, Andrew Young and 81% of legally registered Americans who seek to preserve and protect their Constitutionally guaranteed franchise from being disenfranchised by vote dilution and vote fraud. Mr. President, I urge that the motion to table, which Senator Dodd has indicated he is going to make, be opposed.

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