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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4844, Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006

Location: Washington, DC

PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 4844, FEDERAL ELECTION INTEGRITY ACT OF 2006 -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 21, 2006)

* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I cannot support this bill in its present form.

* Having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, I have a solemn responsibility to vote against even the most politically popular proposals when there are serious doubts about the constitutionality of the legislation. And this bill, transparently brought forward to help the Republican majority whip up public emotions on the eve of a tough election, poses serious constitutional problems--in short, I think it violates the 24th Amendment.

* That amendment, added to the Constitution in 1964, says that the rights of Americans to vote in federal elections ``shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax'' and that Congress ``shall have the power to enforce'' that part of the Constitution.

* But instead of enforcing that constitutional bar on making voting a taxable event, this bill would require states to choose between making some people pay to vote and paying to provide them with the identification that the bill says will be required if they want to exercise that right.

* The bill's supporters say the bill is constitutional because it says that states cannot make everyone pay for identification--they have to provide it free to people who cannot afford the ``reasonable cost'' of providing it.

* But the 24th Amendment is not ambiguous on whether it is permissible to make some people pay to vote, so long as they can afford it. Instead, it makes clear that no Americans--regardless of their income--can be forced to pay ``any ..... tax'' in order to vote.

* And while some may argue that paying for a government-issued ID is not a tax, but just some kind of ``user fee,'' I am not persuaded--and I would remind them of the words of Richard Darman, OMB Director under President Reagan, who said that ``if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like duck, it is a duck, [and] euphemisms like user fees will not fool the public.''

* That's one of the reasons the National Association of Counties (NACO) opposes the bill--because, as they say in their letter to the Speaker and Minority Leader, ``we fear that any fee imposed on other voters [besides those claiming to be too poor to afford an ID] could be characterized as a poll tax and be subject to challenge in court.''

* Further, aside from the constitutional questions, both NACO and the National Conference of State Legislatures oppose the bill because it would impose a burdensome unfunded mandate on every state and every local government. And, as the Conference points out, the bill ``is duplicative'' and ``adds bureaucratic burdens that are completely unnecessary. The REAL ID Act, flawed though it is, already requires a new state identification system based on legal presence ..... This second identification system would be used only for voting [but the Help America Vote Act] ..... and state and local election procedures

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already address identification needs [while] ..... This legislation contains only a vague promise to reimburse states for the cost of providing voter ID's to indigent individuals. There is no specific appropriation for this ..... and little likelihood for one.''

* If the Republican leadership had been willing to allow the House to consider amendments, changes could have been made to remove any doubts about its constitutionality and to avoid burdening the state and local governments with unnecessary burdens. However, instead the leadership insisted on bringing the bill to the floor under a procedure that prevented that--one of the reasons that many have questioned whether the real purpose of the bill is less to respond to potential election fraud and more to make it harder for some citizens to vote.

* I am not opposed to a carefully constructed and constitutional bill that would enhance workplace identity, which is why I support H.R. 98. Nor am I opposed to legislating in order to ensure that non-citizens and others ineligible to vote are prevented from voting fraudulently. And I am hopeful that once the heat of this election season passes, the House will return to a more deliberative and bipartisan way of doing business on this issue and others.

* But, in the meantime, I think this bill does not merit enactment as it stands because its defects outweigh whatever value it may have as a supplement to the existing state and federal laws against election fraud.

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