HOUSTON, Texas — As conservatives threaten the voting rights of millions of Americans with new voter ID laws, Attorney General Eric Holder shot back on Tuesday, calling the laws an unconstitutional “poll tax.”
During a speech to the national NAACP Convention, Holder denounced the fact that a number of states are beginning to require voters to present particular forms of photo identification or be turned away from the polls. “Under proposed voter ID laws, many would struggle to pay for IDs needed to vote. We call this a poll tax,” Holder declared to loud applause.
Some states with voter ID laws don’t charge for the IDs themselves, but many citizens have to pay for the documentation required to get a voter ID. For instance, an 84-year-old Wisconsin woman named Ruthelle Frank, who has voted in every election since Truman defeated Dewey, faced a $200 fee to get a copy of her birth certificate, which she needed to get a voter ID under her state’s new law. Facing such a steep price, 2012 may be the first year Frank can’t vote.
Though Republicans have couched much of their recent agenda in constitutional language, many appear to have forgotten the words of the 24th Amendment:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Holder and the Department of Justice have blocked some of the voter ID laws from taking effect. Both South Carolina and Texas were denied preclearance by the DOJ because their voter ID laws had a disproportionate impact against minorities, violating the Voting Rights Act. Texas is currently suing the DOJ; the federal trial began yesterday.