Speech to the New York Chapter of the National Democratic Lawyers Council

May 17, 2006


Voting ensures every American an opportunity to participate in our democracy. We should never impose obstacles to voting without a fair and compelling reason for doing so that actually enhances our democracy.

Yet, across the nation, Republicans have launched a campaign to impose extremely restrictive voter identification requirements. While they say they are seeking to prevent voter fraud, nothing could be further from the truth.

In Indiana, they passed a law that is virtually identical to one struck down by a federal district court in Georgia. In fact, Democratic governors in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania vetoed similar legislation.

We are committed to fighting these and other Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout anywhere and everywhere Republicans propose them.

Republicans believe that it is better for them if fewer people vote. Democrats understand that America is better when as many people as possible can vote.

So the DNC is stepping up to help fight GOP efforts across the country.

We are expanding the work of the Voting Rights Institute to promote efforts aimed at protecting the right of every American to cast their ballot and have their ballot counted.

We formed the National Lawyers Council to fight systematic barriers to registration and voting across the country, and through the NLC we are providing legal assistance to the Indiana Democratic Party's appeal of a federal court ruling upholding that state's radical voter ID law.

The Voting Rights Institute established a toll free number to help displaced New Orleans residents vote in the April 22 primaries and to collect information about Indiana voters who were disenfranchised by the voter ID law.

I know you have done important work here in New York through the NY Democratic Lawyers Council.

You did important work in monitoring the 2005 mayoral race in New York City and local races in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Ulster Counties.

You dispatched a team of lawyers to conduct election monitoring for New Orleans mayoral primary and other local races.

You worked on the Board of Elections regulations for voting machines, and you have been working with the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the DCCC to work on election monitoring in key races 2006 so we can take back Congress and take back the NY Senate

I applaud you and thank you for those efforts.

The work you do matters, we know, for example, that voters in Ohio in 2004 were disenfranchised by a faulty election system. If you were an African American you waited an average of 52 minutes to vote. If you were white, you waited an average of 18 minutes. If you were young and African American you were more likely to be asked to provide photo ID, in violation of Ohio law.

We know that there are real people, real legitimately registered voters in Indiana who were disenfranchised by the Indiana Voter ID law during the primaries there earlier this month. For example:

  • The newlywed couple from Marion County who were both registered voters had gotten married since they last voted in 2004. The husband was allowed to vote but the wife was not because her name changed and it did not match her photo ID.
  • Or the married woman from Vanderburgh County who was driven by her husband (she does not drive) to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get an ID presented her social security card, her medical card, even her voting card, but she was denied a photo ID because she did not have a birth certificate.
  • Or the Postal employee wearing her full uniform who could not vote because election workers deemed her U.S.-government-issued employment identification to be an unacceptable form of identification because it did not have an expiration date.

These are real people who were denied their right to vote. If even one legitimate voter is denied their right to vote, than these laws need to be overturned or blocked.

That is why Democrats will continue to fight unfair Voter ID laws and other efforts to prevent lawfully registered voters, in particular, seniors, young people, minorities and low-income citizens from casting their ballots.

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Originally published on the Democratic National Committee blog.



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