Holder: Voter ID Laws Harmful to Minorities, Seniors, Young

February 28, 2012 - 5:24 PM
Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) Attorney General Eric Holder defended the Justice Department’s litigation against states to stop voter ID laws, while testifying Tuesday to a House subcommittee.

The Supreme Court upheld the states’ right to require photo ID to vote in a 2008 case involving an Indiana statute. Nevertheless, the Justice Department has found other legal grounds to challenge the statutes passed by more than a dozen states.

Rep. Robert Aberholdt (R-Ala.) inquired about the action against his state’s voter ID law, and said he was puzzled as to why the federal government would oppose voter ID law, since most people frequently need photo ID to write a check or use a credit card.

Holder insisted the actions to squash voter ID laws were justified.

“With regard to photo ID, I think that too often people are neglecting a really important point is that there were mechanisms in place,” Holder told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

“Right here in Washington, D.C., I can’t just walk up to a voting booth and vote and just say I am Eric Holder and be allowed to vote. I have to come up with some way to prove who I am. The mechanisms that we’ve had in place I think have proven to be effective,” he said.

The laws were designed to prevent voter fraud. Aberholdt recalled that his brother was a poll watcher in Alabama when a woman came in and tried to vote under the name of a deceased person that would have been more than 100 years old.

About one in eight names listed on the active voter rolls, or 24 million nationally, are no longer valid or have significant inaccuracies, according to a report issued earlier this month by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States. The states with problems include Florida, California, Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana and West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

The attorney general stressed there is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem that can be alleviated by photo ID laws.

“There really is no statistical indication that in person vote fraud has to be cured by the introduction of voter photo ID,” Holder said.

“And when one looks at the negative impact of these photo ID laws and the harm that has on minorities, young people, seniors, and the balancing we have to do, I think we should think long and hard about whether or not these photo ID laws – in curing a problem that I don’t think necessarily exists and have a negative impact on the ability of people to get to the polls – is a worthwhile policy initiative,” he added.

The Justice Department had already initiated legal action against South Carolina and Alabama for their voter ID laws.

In January, Texas sued the Justice Department for blocking the implementation of their voter ID law. Under the federal voting rights act, the federal government must approve changes to voting laws in certain states, including Texas.