Democrats continue fight against voter ID laws

Amanda Seitz | Contributor

Democrats are battling a growing number of states that are preparing to implement tougher voter identification laws.

Stopping voter ID laws is crucial to Democrats who argue college students, the elderly and minorities will be prevented from voting under the new laws.

“It’s no surprise that these voter suppression efforts are being pushed by Republicans in key swing states,” said Democratic Governor Association spokeswoman Lis Smith.

Republicans pushing to pass such legislation counter that tougher laws will prevent voter fraud and keep ineligible voters from the polling booths.

Now, opponents of the laws don’t just have Republicans to worry about.

Rhode Island’s independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee is the latest to join the voter identification law spree — he signed a tougher bill into law Tuesday after it was passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled house and senate. The governor told The Providence Journal the new law would increase “accuracy and integrity” shortly after signing the bill.

Nearly 20 other states are considering more stringent voter photo identification laws, which has many Democrats crying out in retaliation.

More than 15 Democratic senators have signed a letter calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the legality of states’ “highly restrictive photo identification requirements,” which they allege violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and, ultimately, civil rights.

Holder’s office would not confirm or deny if it is complying with the request from the senators.

“The Justice Department is monitoring, as it routinely does, this type of legislative activity in the states,” Holder’s office told The Daily Caller.

The letter comes weeks after the Democratic Governors Association embarked on a $50,000 fundraising effort to combat voter ID laws.

The Supreme Court has previously upheld voter photo ID laws. The high court ruled in favor of allowing Indiana to enforce photo identification legislation at voting booths in April 2008. High profile Republicans such as current House Speaker John Boehner praised the decision while civil rights groups like the League of Women Voters and many Democrats denounced it.

The fundraising, which ended June 30, surpassed the $50,000 mark, Smith said.

So far, the DGA has specifically targeted Florida and Wisconsin, where Republican governors recently signed voter ID bills into law.

But the DGA isn’t stopping there.

“It’s definitely a big priority of ours,” Smith said. “I think you’ll see we’re going to be involved in additional states in coming weeks and months, Pennsylvania’s one, Ohio’s another.”

Smith said the issue, which the DGA believes is “aimed directly at Democratic voters,” is a priority because it will stop thousands of eligible voters from coming to the polls in 2012.

Before 2011, nine states already required photo IDs at polls. Seven states have inked new voter ID laws this year.

“If this legislation is successful, it will prevent seniors, students, low income folks, women who’ve gotten their names change because they were married, from being able to cast their vote in the 2012 elections,” Smith said.

Not to be outdone, the Democratic National Committee has started its own push back to stop voter ID legislation from becoming law.

The DNC has focused its energy on the exposing the cost of implementing “unnecessary” new voter ID laws. The DNC estimates the cost of the laws could range between $276 million and $828 million for states, attributing the millions to educating voters.

“The concern is that this really isn’t a problem,” said DNC spokesperson Alec Gerlach. “It’s more of a solution in search of a problem. Voter impersonation is not a problem”

Gerlach said the stringent voter ID laws make it difficult for minorities and the elderly to vote.

“I think that minority voters and elderly voters are harder to reach as far education is concerned, if you change the law you have to make the effort to educate,” Gerlach said.

No matter how many attack ads Democrats run against the voter ID laws, Republican-controlled legislatures are undeterred. Ohio’s GOP legislature is expected to vote on a series of voter identification reforms during special session in coming weeks.

“The Ohio Republican Party favors an identification provision that is strict and consistent to ensure integrity in our election process,” Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine said to The Daily Caller in a statement. “Identification requirements should comply with the requirements for registration and remain consistent across all 21 days of voting.”

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