Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) called on the Justice Department and Congress to investigate voting laws recently passed by Florida and 13 other states on Thursday.
Nelson said that the laws, which implement tougher identification requirements, shorten registration times and place restrictions on third parties that register voters, could violate the Civil Rights Act and other federal election laws.
“The Justice Department should investigate whether new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout,” the senator said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “The department needs to determine whether or not there was broad-based motivation to suppress the vote — and, if so, whether any laws were violated.”
Nelson said that the laws, which were mainly passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures, could target young people and minorities.
“In short, indications are mounting of an effort to suppress the national vote,” he said,
He cited a study by the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University School of Law which estimated that the new laws “could make it significantly harder for more than five-million eligible voters in numerous states to cast their ballots in 2012.”
Nelson also said that he asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and human rights, “to conduct a congressional investigation to see if Florida’s new election law is linked to the efforts to pass similar voting restrictions in 14 states so far this year.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) introduced two bills on Wednesday designed to cancel the effects of the state level voter registration laws: the Same Day Registration Act, which requires states to allow same day voter registration for a federal election; and the Voter Access Protection Act, which would make it illegal to require photo identification in order to register or vote.
Supporters of the new state level voting laws argue that voter fraud in the U.S. is a serious problem.