Federal Election Integrity Act
Advocacy Letter - 09/13/06
Source: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Recipient: Committee on House Administration
The Honorable Vernon Ehlers
Chairman Committee on House Administration
1309 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Juanita Millender-McDonald
Ranking Member Committee on House Administration
1216 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Ehlers and Ranking Member Millender-McDonald:
We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our strong opposition to H.R. 4844, the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006." H.R. 4844 would require all voters, beginning in 2010, to obtain and show government-issued photo ID that proves their citizenship in order to vote. In doing so, H.R. 4844 would encourage racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places and prevent many eligible voters across the country from participating in our democracy, while doing nothing to combat genuine instances of voter fraud. H.R. 4844 would only serve to skew election results by removing countless eligible voters from the process. We urge you to vote against this ill-conceived measure.
In July of this year, Congress passed the historic reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, "The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006," protecting the right to vote for millions of Americans for many years to come. This important, bi-partisan, victory would be undermined by a new measure to disenfranchise some of the very citizens that the VRA is designed to protect.
First, no citizen should have to pay to vote. Many U.S. citizens either do not have or cannot easily access documents that prove their citizenship such as a passport or birth certificate. Attempts to cover the cost of ID for voters who cannot afford them are not sufficient, as our most cherished civil right should never depend on annual appropriations decisions. Moreover, citizens would still be faced with the expense and time involved in getting the documentation required to obtain ID. Thus, while the Voting Rights Act eliminated poll taxes, H.R. 4844 brings them back.
In addition, proof of citizenship may be impossible for some people to obtain. Until recently, it was common in certain parts of the country for people to be born at home, without obtaining an official birth certificate. If H.R. 4844 were to become law, these American citizens would be completely disenfranchised.
The requirement that all voters present a photo ID before being able to cast a regular ballot will disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, rural and Native voters, the homeless, low-income people, and married women, who are less likely to carry a photo ID. Photo ID requirements also build an enormous amount of discretion into the balloting process, thus creating opportunities for discrimination at the polls against racial, ethnic, and language minority voters.
Further, while supporters of H.R. 4844 argue that it is necessary to require photo IDs and proof of citizenship in order to combat voter fraud, the evidence clearly establishes that current anti-fraud laws work. Moreover, while there is no question that election misconduct exists, including improper purges of voters, distributing false information about when and where to vote, stuffing ballot boxes, and tampering with registration forms, there is no evidence that the type of fraud that H.R. 4844 purports to address - voters who misrepresent their identity - is anything but an anomaly.
The right to vote, and to have your vote counted, is the most important civil right of all. Proposals like H.R. 4844 are one of the greatest threats to fair and equal voting rights today. Congress should be in the business of encouraging full participation of our citizenry, not developing ways to limit the right to vote.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 4844. If you have any questions, please contact Rob Randhava, LCCR Counsel, at (202) 466-6058, Tanya Clay House of People For the American Way at (202) 467-2341, or Jonah Goldman of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at (202) 662-8321.
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
A. Philip Randolph Institute
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Americans for Democratic Action
Asian American Justice Center
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
Center for Digital Democracy
Dēmos: A Network for Ideas & Action
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of Women Voters of the United States
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Education Association
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Voting Rights Institute
People For the American Way
Transgender Law Center
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Auto Workers
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United States Student Association