Hoyer Against Photo IDs for Voters; Equates Recommendation to Racism

Say Photo Identification Proposal Will Risk the Disenfranchisement of Many Qualified Voters

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) and Senator Chris Dodd (CT), the principal Democratic sponsors of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, released the following statement today after the Commission on Federal Election Reform issued its recommendations for America's election system:

"Today the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, issued its list of recommendations for improving this nation's election system.

"We commend the hard work and dedication that the Commission brought to bear in crafting the recommendations. As the principal Democratic cosponsors of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), we remain committed to ensuring that every American citizen has an equal opportunity to vote and have their vote counted and that no eligible voter is deprived the franchise. For this reason, we take seriously the Commission's recommendations and will review them in light of the historic HAVA reforms.

"We are deeply concerned, however, by the recommendation that States require mandatory photo identification for in-person voting at the polls. This proposal, if implemented, risks disenfranchising countless qualified voters on the basis of race, income, disability, and age.

"Given that HAVA already struck a carefully balanced, bipartisan voter identification response to potential fraud, while also guaranteeing that no eligible voter be turned away at the polls, the Commission's ID recommendation strikes us as unnecessary and indeed unwise. The Report contains no evidence of fraud by voters appearing in person at the polls to vote. Yet, we know that for the 12 percent of the voting-age population that does not have a driver's license, such a requirement erects new barriers to voting. We thus agree with Commission member and former Senator Tom Daschle's dissent that an ID as envisaged in the report is tantamount to a 'modern day poll tax.'

"We are pleased that the Commission recognizes that the administration of provisional ballots must be improved, and that States should establish uniform procedures for counting such ballots. However, we are disappointed that the Commission missed the opportunity to ensure that votes for Federal and statewide races on a provisional ballot cast by an otherwise eligible voter are counted regardless of the precinct in which it is cast.

"The Help American Vote Act was a carefully crafted balance between the twin goals of making it easier to vote and harder to defraud the system. Rather than maintaining that balance, the Commission's Report tips the scale against ensuring that every eligible voter can exercise his or her fundamental right to vote."

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