Rights leaders warn voters would lose franchise under proposed voter ID bill

Common Cause/ AARP/ NAACP/ Mexican American Legal Defense and Education

Estuardo Rodriguez (MALDEF) 202-365-0625

Mistique Cano (LCCR) 202-263-2882

Stacey Gates (PFAW) 202-467-2335

Rights leaders warn voters would lose franchise under proposed voter ID bill

Washington, DC – National rights groups held a conference call today with reporters outlining how hundreds of thousands of voters would be disenfranchised under the proposed national voter ID law, H.R.4844, the “Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006,” which would require all voters to obtain and show government-issued photo ID that proves their citizenship. The House is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

“Our election systems have many serious systemic problems, but people pretending to be someone else at the polls is not one of them,” Common Cause President Chellie Pingree said. “Congress should focus on the real problems that have shaken Americans’ confidence in voting, such as requiring a voter verified paper trail in case electronic voting machines malfunction, or assuring that polls have enough workers and voting machines so people don’t have to wait in long lines on Election Day. We should be making voting more accessible, not putting up more hurdles.”

The AARP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the NAACP joined Common Cause to explain how the proposed Voter ID legislation would harm older and minority voters.

– “AARP is particularly worried that this proposed bill adversely affects older voters who no longer drive and don’t need to, and therefore don’t have drivers’ licenses. Who no longer travel outside the United States or, like many rural residents, never did, and therefore don’t have passports. We think that there are many reasonable alternatives to prevent voter fraud and see rules like this photo ID proposal as simply another effort to reduce the number of older, low income and minority voters,” AARP Sr. Legislative Representative Larry White said.

– “This legislation would erect serious barriers to political participation for Latino voters – U.S. citizens who have a fundamental right to vote. Many eligible voters in our community do not have the required citizenship documents or the means to obtain them. It’s unconscionable, and unconstitutional, to charge them the equivalent of a poll tax to cast their ballots,” Interim President and General Counsel of MALDEF John Trasvi‘a said.

– “Hundreds of thousands of NAACP members have worked tirelessly to destroy barriers to voting for African Americans. They register to vote, they vote, and they and the NAACP are not about to allow passage of disenfranchisement in disguise,” NAACP Washington Director Hilary Shelton said.

Maria Frencher of Kansas City, a plaintiff in a Missouri voter ID federal lawsuit, joined the call to give a real life example of how legal voters could be shut out of the ballot box if overly restrictive federal or state voter ID laws are put in place. Frencher, who has voted legally in Missouri for more than a decade, was adopted and does not have the proper paperwork required under the proposed legislation to vote.

Lawyers from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for the American Way, and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law were available to field legal and constitutional questions on the proposed legislation.