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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would simply prohibit any funds in this underlying bill from being used to carry out or enforce section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Under section 5, seven States in the South, as well as Arizona, Texas, and a number of counties scattered across the country, are required to receive Federal pre-clearance to every change they make in election laws.

The provision stipulates that only changes to election law in those covered locations which are shown to be nondiscriminatory may be pre-cleared. Unfortunately, the burden of proving that a change is nondiscriminatory is on the State or locality which wishes to make the change.

The standard and practice is known to be highly subjective, with no presumption of innocence.

It is also highly unfair to allow some States to make changes to their election laws while other States wishing to make the same changes are forced to jump through a bunch of hoops. I know firsthand how onerous this law is.

My home State of Georgia, as an example, has long struggled with the U.S. Department of Justice over its voter identification laws. They're not alone. The State of Arizona is currently suing to be free from section 5, showing evidence that it made accommodations for Spanish-speaking voters long ago. On the other side of the country, South Carolina is challenging the Department of Justice's decision to overturn its voter identification law.

Mr. Chairman, as Americans, we pride ourselves in our electoral system, but the integrity of our elections is called into question when this outdated law bars States from ensuring those who come to the polls to vote are eligible to do so.

I should note that I'm not the only one who believes that section 5 is an antiquated provision. Earlier this very year, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its concern about what they stated: serious constitutional questions raised by section 5's intrusion into State sovereignty.

Mr. Chairman, we are supposed to be treated equal under the law. This section of Federal statute treats some States more equal than other States. There are States being discriminated against. My home State of Georgia is one of those. It's time for us to go to what the Constitution says is the way we should all be treated: equal under the law. It's long past time to put this provision to rest. I urge the support of my amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. BROUN of Georgia. I thank my friend.

I would like to remind my good friend from California that Georgia's voter identification law has been upheld by the courts. The provision of voter identification is simply to ensure integrity at the polls: that the people who are voting are the people who are supposed to be voting.

We have all heard and have joked about the saying in Chicago about ``vote early and vote often.'' The only way we can ensure the integrity of the vote, the only way we can ensure that people who are voting are those who are supposed to be voting, is by having some identification. That's simply what this is all about. It's not to prohibit people from coming to the polls. It's not to prohibit or to discriminate against anybody. Who is being discriminated against here are the States, those jurisdictions that are falling under section 5.

We should all be treated equal under the law. I don't believe in discrimination for or against anybody. We have a history of discrimination in my State and throughout the country, and we still have discrimination. I find discrimination deplorable--and I reject it in any manner--but we should all be treated equal under the law. We need to make sure that we have integrity at the polls. We need to make sure that the people who are voting are truly the people who say they are.

I know, in some jurisdictions, a person just walks to the polling area and says, I'm Joe Smith.

Then they say, Fine. I see you here on the polls. Go vote.

We can't have this in this country. It's not right, and it's not fair. Joe Smith needs to have absolute assurance that the person he voted for won it fair and square--that elections are not stolen, that elections are fair, that whoever comes out at the top of the ballot is the one who really won.

So this is not about discrimination. It's not preventing anyone from voting. It's simply just to make sure we have integrity so that the people across this country can be sure that their votes count and can be sure that somebody else who may be an illegal in this country or who may not be qualified to vote for whatever reason or who may have already voted but who wants to vote a second time is not doing so.


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