The second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate will chair a hearing Thursday to begin probing the rash of GOP-led voter ID laws being enacted in states nationwide.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois will preside over the session, to be held by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, civil rights and human rights subcommittee.
These new state laws — enacted in Wisconsin, Texas, Alabama and elsewhere under GOP governors — significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting, and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters.
Supporters of these laws argue that they will reduce the risk of voter fraud. The overwhelming evidence, however, indicates that voter impersonation fraud is virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low income Americans to exercise their right to vote.
By targeting aspects like early voting, the laws restrict those means which President Obama and his campaign used to power his victory in 2008.
“Disenfranchising those who can least afford it while securing tax breaks for the very wealthy and for corporations speaks ill for the right-wing agenda being pushed by Republican leaders in Congress and the state capitols,” says Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, which opposes the restrictive voter laws. “They’ve trying to take away our right to organize and bargain collectively while shipping millions of our jobs to China, while sticking us with more costs.”
“While many Americans have been squeezed us out of our homes and into foreclosure, it’s disgusting now to see them now attacking the very right Americans hold most sacred –- the right to vote,” Gerard adds.
USW International Vice President Fred Redmond says the union will mobilize workers across the country to ensure that eligible voters have access to the polls and that their vote counts.
“Americans will not abide such obviously politically motivated attacks on basic human rights and freedoms essential for the survival of our democracy,” Redmond says. “We should be focusing on how to get more people to the polls instead of fewer.”
“The problem has never been that too many people vote,” he adds, “so it is my hope that the facts and evidence brought to light at the hearing show how damaging these new requirements will be, especially for many of those whose interests are already under-represented at the local, state and federal levels.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.