The Obama Justice Department needs to do more to stop states from implementing voter ID bills which disenfranchise minority voters, a coalition of House Democrats and civil rights leaders said Wednesday.
Gathered by the steps of the Capitol, the members of Congress and civil rights advocates slammed what they called a coordinated plan by Republicans to prevent students, minorities and the elderly from exercising their right to vote. They dismissed a frequent argument made by supporters of voter ID laws — that since photo identification is required for plenty of everyday activities, it should be required at the polls as well.
“You wanna know something? Getting a video from Blockbuster is not a constitutional right. Getting liquor from the liquor store is not a constitutional right,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI).
States coming up with these voter ID laws at the same time “was not spontaneous generation,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said. “It was Rovian. This was an obvious Republican attempt to subvert our vote in 2012 and to hurt the President of the United States’ chance of reelection, which is the entire goal of the Republican House — to defeat Barack Obama even if they take down the United States economy while they do it.”
Sixteen states already have laws requiring or requesting voters present a photo voter ID in order to vote and at least 38 states are considering or have recently considered such measures, according to the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights. Indeed, evidence emerged on Wednesday that the conservative state legislative group ALEC had circulated draft legislation for conservative state lawmakers to propose to impose restrictive photo voter ID requirements.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) took a shot at the major networks for not having someone on hand to cover the news conference on voting rights.
“I guess everybody is out covering the story about some nude pictures on the Internet, on Facebook, and yeah even Casey Anthony’s case, when we’re talking about here a very fundamental right that is in jeopardy,” Johnson said.
Moore said that when Gov. Scott Walker — who supported a voter ID bill — ran against her for state assembly back in the 1990s, he told an unnamed Republican colleague that he thought he could beat her because the district was majority white.
“Who do you think he’s trying to disenfranchise? He’s been trying for all these years since 1990 on a consistent basis to institute these voter ID bills,” Moore said.
“I’m proud to stand to you to make sure the Justice Department does what’s right on this and other civil rights issues on which they’ve been absent as of late,” Cohen said.
“We urge the Department of Justice: hear our plea. Take leadership, and respond immediately in these courts,” Rev. Jesse Jackson said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the Civil Rights Division is monitoring legislative activity in the states as they routinely do.