New York, NY — Demos, a leading national public policy organization, denounced the passage of the House of Representatives bill (H.R. 4844) also known as the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006," which would require all voters to obtain and present government-issued photo ID by 2008, and present proof of citizenship before voting in 2010.
All contemporary evidence suggests that the real source of voters' election concerns are obscured by all of the attention and energy Congress spends on Voter ID. Instead, American voters deserve attention to serious challenges faced at the ballot box--keeping voting lists up-to-date, making sure that provisional ballots are implemented correctly, ensuring that there are adequate and secure voting machines that count votes properly, providing for adequate poll workers training, eliminating voter suppression and others.
Instead of taking up reforms that could ensure that the types of problems found in 2000, 2002 and 2004 election will not occur again, the House has passed a bill that, if also passed by the Senate and signed into law, could roll back voting rights a century, disfranchising millions of eligible voters--particularly voters who are elderly, disabled, low-income and of color.
Facts about H.R. 4844:
* H.R. 4844 would disproportionately impact people of color, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, rural voters, people living on reservations, the homeless, low-income people, and married women--who studies show to be less likely to carry a photo ID and often have to change photo ID information. According to the State Department, only 25 percent of Americans over age 18 have a passport.
* By requiring voters to pay for photo ID and proof of citizenship, H.R. 4844 is the equivalent of a poll tax. Further, proof of citizenship may be impossible for some voters to obtain. For example, until recently, it was common in some parts of the country for people to be born at home, without obtaining an official birth certificate.
* While supporters of H.R. 4844 argue that it will combat voter fraud, the evidence clearly shows that current anti-fraud laws work. Congress and the states are already successful at preventing non-citizens from voting and ensuring that voters are who they claim to be. And there is no evidence that the type of fraud that this bill seeks to address is anything but an anomaly.
Lawmakers should focus on real improvements to elections, such as enacting Election Day Registration, restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, and investing more in hiring and recruiting trained election officials and poll workers. When the Senate takes up this legislation, they should keep mind that there are needed, tested, implement-able reforms to increase fair ballot access and boost voter participation that should be considered-instead of the downturn in democratic participation that will be ushered in by new ID laws.
In response, Demos has a number of national experts on election integrity listed below who are available for interview, and resources available online at demos.org
MILES RAPOPORT is President of Demos and former Secretary of the State of Connecticut. As a state legislator, he was a leading expert on electoral reform, chairing the Committee on Elections. Miles has an extensive record of speaking and writing on issues of democracy, election reform, voter access and voter disfranchisement. He has often been quoted in national magazines, newspapers and wire services, including: Associated Press reports, Reuters, UPI, Bangor Daily News, Bergen Record, National Civic Review, Hartford Courant, American Prospect, The New York Times, KGW.com, The Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Washington Times and others. He has also appeared on TV and in numerous radio interviews, including: CNN News, CNN with Lou Dobbs, CNNfn, ABC News Radio, Democracy Now!, the Brian Lehrer Show and many others.
STUART COMSTOCK-GAY serves jointly as Director of Demos' Democracy Program and Executive Director of the National Voting Rights Institute, Demos' formal collaboration partner. Stuart has an extensive record of speaking and writing on issues of democracy, foundation practices and civil liberties. He has often been quoted in national magazines, newspapers and wire services, including Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, TomPaine.com, United Press International, Wilson Library Quarterly and more. He has also appeared on TV and in numerous radio interviews, including: C-SPAN Morning show, National Public Radio, Fox Radio News and numerous local radio shows.
STEVEN CARBÓ is Senior Program Director of the Democracy Program, Steven works to eliminate barriers to political participation through applied research, policy analysis and organizing assistance. He has 14 years of experience in advancing progressive civil rights, social justice and community economic development policies at the federal, state and community levels. Before joining Demos, Steven worked as Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez, Special Counsel on Environmental Justice for U.S. Representative Jose Serrano and Legislative Staff Attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
SPENCER OVERTON is a law professor at George Washington University. He specializes in voting rights, served as a commissioner on the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, and is also a member of the boards of Common Cause, Demos, the Center for Responsive Politics and the People's Community Baptist Church. He is a frequent media commentator and has appeared on various shows and networks, including ABC Television, Air America, Canadian Broadcast Corporation, C-Span's Washington Journal, Independent Television News of London, National Public Radio, and Wall Street Journal Radio. Spencer's commentaries on election law have appeared on the opinion pages of several major newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Globe, the L.A. Times, New York Times Upfront Magazine, Roll Call, Newsday, and the Washington Post.
BRENDA WRIGHT is the Managing Attorney for Demos' partner organization National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI) in Boston, Massachusetts. Before joining NVRI in 1997, Brenda served as Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., litigating cases throughout the country to protect the voting rights of citizens of color. She successfully argued Young v. Fordice, the first Supreme Court case involving the 1993 "Motor-Voter" law, which challenged Mississippi's effort to establish a racially discriminatory dual registration requirement for voting in federal and state elections. Brenda has testified before Congress, federal agencies and state legislatures and makes frequent presentations at national conferences and convenings. She has also authored numerous opinion pieces, law review articles and other publications on voting rights, campaign finance reform and other democracy issues.
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