My name is Brenda Wright. I am the Legal Director of the Democracy Program at Dēmos, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization established in 1999. Dēmos works with policy makers, advocates and scholars around the nation to improve our democracy and achieve greater economic equity. I thank the Committee for the opportunity to testify here today.

I personally have worked on issues of voting rights and election reform for the past 18 years. I believe, and Demos believes, that a vibrant American democracy requires high levels of voter turnout and participation in elections. All eligible voters must be encouraged to raise their voices and vote on Election Day without unnecessary barriers that deter participation. The adoption of new, stringent photo ID requirements and proof of citizenship requirements for voting in this Commonwealth, such as are contained in numerous bills before this Committee, would take us away from that goal and would be a step backward for Massachusetts.

Although photo ID and proof of citizenship proposals are offered as necessary to prevent fraud in elections, we know, based on experience and data from other states, that 2 the facts do not warrant these extreme measures, and that all available evidence suggests that voter fraud of the kind that could be prevented by these new requirements is exceedingly rare. Even more importantly, and more disturbingly, these laws would have the effect of preventing many eligible voters from meeting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship – exercising the right to vote. This will disproportionately affect people who can’t afford the necessary documents, and people who don’t have drivers’ licenses, such as urban residents, communities of color, senior citizens, and disabled citizens.

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