Reacting to laws making aiming to increase the difficulty to vote since conservatives took control of state governments in the 2010 midterm elections, Congressman Rick Larsen, along with 14 other House Democrats, introduced a bill yesterday to “combat voter suppression efforts across the country”. Only two of the current co-sponsors represent a state which has enacted a voter ID law since 2010, though Virginia, where co-sponsor Rep. James Moran represents the 8th District, tried to enact voter ID provisions in 1999.
This legislation is particularly as Republicans try to use voter eligibility and access to the right to vote a political tool in order to help the electoral chances of their candidates, including the much aired statement by Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who said that the law enacted in Pennsylvania, the one which was ordered yesterday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to be reconsidered, would “allow Governor Romney to win the state”. Think Progress just reported today that the Ohio Secretary of State told Tea Partiers that strict voter ID laws be pushed through their General Assembly once the November election was over.
Rep. Larsen was interviewed by NPR today about the bill introduced by himself and his colleagues, where he likened the “states rights” arguments which might be used against this legislation, likening voter ID to previous attempts at voter suppression in the past, referencing Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, more explicit forms of disenfranchisement. He described the legislation as similar to Washington’s system, where voters sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. While this eases voting, it carries high penalties for fraud, just like we have in Washington.
The federal government has stepped in before when the right to vote has not been upheld for all citizens, and the America Votes Act of 2012, as it is called, is no different, preventing rights from being subject to political calculation. The bill provides a simple solution to problem which pushes large swathes of voters out of our democratic system. Considering the current composition of the House (that’s a recurring theme, isn’t it?) action is unlikely to be taken about a bill which hurts the Republican House majority’s chances, but at least some of our elected officials are trying to take action to solve a problem which affects the rights of everyday citizens.