On Thursday, House Republicans criticized the Justice Department for challenging voter ID laws. The critical lawmakers believe that DOJ is acting in a partisan manner and that DOJ’s actions show that the Obama Administration is more concerned with winning in November than protecting against election fraud.
DOJ denies that they are motivated by any partisan concerns. Under the Voting Rights Act, DOJ has challenged voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.
In both states, Republican-controlled legislatures passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote. The Justice Department indicated this week it also is looking at whether Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law for ensuring minorities’ right to vote.
“Our philosophy has been very straight forward,” Perez told a House Judiciary subcommittee that Franks chairs. “We want to enforce laws. There’s a robust debate in this country, and we think we need to continue to have that debate and we do our level best to ensure that every eligible voter casts their vote and has access to the ballot.”
The criticism by Republican lawmakers is misplaced and misguided. Republican Reps. Steve King (IA) and Trent Franks (AZ) both claimed to be worried about voter fraud. King went so far as to say that “[w]e’re seeing voter fraud that’s pretty prevalent out there.” But there is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem. In fact there were only nine instances of possible in-person voter fraud between 2000 and 2007, and it is more likely that an individual will get struck by lightning than they will commit voter fraud. In the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, the state formally acknowledged that no in-person voter fraud has occurred in Pennsylvania and they don’t expect any to occur in November. While voter fraud is a myth, voter ID laws do disenfranchise voters. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 750,000 eligible voters may be disenfranchised by the state’s new law.
While voter fraud is incredibly rare and therefore unlikely to swing the election in the Democrats’ favor, voter ID laws benefit Republicans because they disproportionately affect voters who are more likely to vote democratic. Poor, minority, and elderly voters are especially likely to fall into the 11 percent of eligible American voters who lack sufficient ID. Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman (R) and Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) both have said that voter ID laws will help Mitt Romney win in November. The ten states that have put voter ID requirements in place represent 127 electoral votes and are led by Republicans in both the legislature and the governorship.