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Public Statements

Voter Suppression

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Before I start, Mr. Speaker, let me just take a moment to comment about one of the previous speakers this morning, my dear friend, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from the State of California.

Congresswoman Lee has been an advocate for low-income families for as long as I can remember; and especially since I first came to Congress some 7 1/2 years ago, she has been tenacious on this issue. I just want to publicly thank her for her advocacy. I represent a low-income/low-wealth district in eastern North Carolina. My district is the fourth poorest district in the Nation, so I understand full well the challenges that she has confronted, and I thank her so very much.

Mr. Speaker, I've come to the floor this morning to talk about voter suppression--yes, voter suppression--across the country. Republicans are tightening the restrictions on who can vote and on how Americans can vote. During next year's elections, there will be millions of Americans who will find that since 2008 there are now new barriers that could prevent them from voting.

The number of States with laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification has quadrupled. Mr. Speaker, it has quadrupled in the last 4 years. Actually, over the last year, it has quadrupled. In fact, at least 34 States have now introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote. Seven States--Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin--have already signed photo identification bills into law. Before this legislative session, only two States had ever imposed strict photo identification. Under the guise of eliminating voter fraud, 21 million American citizens, or 11 percent of Americans, could be prevented from voting--all because they do not possess government-issued photo identification.

Republicans are also seeking to put an end to early voting--a hugely popular voting method that is used by millions of Americans. At least nine States have introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods. Four States have tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities, and two States have reversed early reforms. Once again, it has disenfranchised thousands of taxpaying citizens who have past criminal convictions while a number of other States have made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote. These new restrictions will undoubtedly disenfranchise young voters, minority voters, low-income voters, and voters with disabilities--all of whom, as we know, traditionally vote with the Democratic Party.

In my home State of North Carolina, Republicans have mounted two strong efforts to suppress low-income and African American voters--House bill 351, for example, a voter ID bill which passed our State House and Senate earlier this year. It was vetoed by Governor Beverly Perdue, and we thank her for being strong in vetoing that legislation.

Senate bill 47, which would reduce the early voting period by 1 week, eliminates Sunday voting, and eliminates same-day voter registration. This bill is currently pending now in our legislature.

The right to vote, Mr. Speaker, is protected. It is dearly protected by more constitutional amendments--the 1st Amendment and the 14th Amendment, 15th, 19th, 24th, and even the 26th Amendments--than any other right we enjoy as Americans. We must continue to inform our constituents that their fundamental right in this democracy is being infringed and urge them to fight back against this voter suppression epidemic.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious to me that any objective observer who is looking at this will know the real motive of this effort. It is specifically intended to diminish voter participation of some in our society who support progressive movements and who support the Democratic Party.

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