Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and 15 of his fellow Democratic senators have urged Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Department of Justice investigate the voter-identification laws recently enacted by some states to determine whether those laws violate the Voting Rights Act.
“These laws are a solution in search of a problem,” Bennet told The Denver Post. “Voting is integral to the strength of our democracy, and we should be working to increase voting participation, not keeping valid voters from having their voices heard.”
“Since January, voter ID laws have been passed in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee; Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are also considering proposals,” Bennet said in a statement. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, was among those who signed the letter. They said there were already laws adequate to guard against voter fraud, which they said was rare in any event.
“These laws have the potential to disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters and disproportionately affect particular populations. Studies have shown that as high as 11 percent of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued ID,” Bennet said. “This percentage is higher among seniors, racial minorities, low-income voters and students.”
The issue of voter fraud “gained traction in Colorado after newly elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler testified before a U.S. House committee in March, saying that between 106 and 11,000 noncitizens may be registered to vote in Colorado,” The Post noted. Gessler, a Republican, “favors a stronger voter-ID law that would eliminate the possibility of illegal immigrants casting ballots,” The Post said.
Democrats are generally wary of tough voter-ID laws, seeing them as Republican maneuvers to disenfranchise those who would typically vote Democratic. Gessler is a former DOJ prosecutor in Washington and is an election law expert, according to his website, which describes him as dedicated to free and open elections for all voters, regardless of party affiliation.