Shaheen to Holder: Concerns about highly restrictive photo identification requirements

I wanted to share with everyone a letter that I signed on to, written to Attorney General Eric Holder. Basically, the letter calls on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to carefully review highly restrictive photo identification voter requirements that are being considered, or have been recently signed into law, in several states. I want to make sure that every single person who is eligible to vote, can.

I have included the letter below.

Thank you,
Jeanne Shaheen
http://www.facebook.com/Senato…
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June 29, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
Robert F. Kennedy Building
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We are writing to express our concerns about highly restrictive photo identification requirements under consideration or already signed into law in several states.  These measures have the potential to block millions of eligible American voters without addressing any problem commensurate with this kind of restriction on voting rights.  Studies have shown that as high as 11% of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued ID.  This percentage is higher for seniors, racial minorities, low-income voters and students.  Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and we urge you to protect the voting rights of Americans by using the full power of the Department of Justice to review these voter identification laws and scrutinize their implementation.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act vests significant authority in the Department to review laws before they are implemented in covered jurisdictions.  As you know, the burden of proof in this preclearance process is on those covered jurisdictions, which must be able to show that legal changes will not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters.  New photo identification laws, for instance, must be subjected to the highest scrutiny as states justify these new barriers to participation.  In Section 5 jurisdictions, whenever photo identification legislation is considered, the Department should closely monitor the legislative process to track any unlawful intent evinced by the proceedings.  

Restrictive photo identification requirements are also being considered or have passed in states and jurisdictions that are not covered by Section 5.  The Department should exercise vigilance in overseeing whether these laws are implemented in a way that discriminates against protected classes in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Additionally, federal civil rights law – 42 U.S.C. 1971(a)(2)- prohibits  different standards, practices or procedures from being applied to individuals within a jurisdiction.  We believe the Department should ensure that these photo identification laws do not violate this statute or other federal voting rights statutes.

Highly restrictive photo identification requirements at the polls can make it more difficult for well-intentioned voters to cast their ballots, and as far as America’s civil rights trajectory is concerned, that sort of effect takes America in the wrong direction.  We urge you to exercise your authority to examine these laws so that voting rights are not jeopardized.  We also request that you brief us on the efforts the Department is undertaking to ensure these new laws are implemented in accordance with the Voting Rights Act.  

Thank you for your work protecting the civil rights of all Americans.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Bennet Harry Reid
United States Senator United States Senator

Dick Durbin Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator United States Senator

Patty Murray Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator United States Senator

Mary Landrieu Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator United States Senator

Sherrod Brown Mark Begich
United States Senator United States Senator

Jeff Merkley Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator United States Senator

Ron Wyden Tom Harkin
United States Senator United States Senator

Tom Udall Herb Kohl
United States Senator United States Senator

  • Kathy Sullivan 2
    • TimothyHorrigan

      I was gonna say Kelly Ayotte: “Worst – NH Senator – Evah” but then I remembered Bob Smith, who was even worse.

      Kelly is definitely:

      Worst – NH Senator – Since Bob Smith

      • unhhockey

        but they’re neck-and-neck.  Kelly is blight on all of New England, not just NH.

        • GreyMike
  • Dean Barker
  • unhhockey

    presence in our Congressional Delegation.  Without her, well, New Hampshire would look pretty awful.

  • mevansnh

    would never stick up for the  people like  Senator Shaheen does.

    • unhhockey

      primarily aimed at suppressing Democratic voting blocs, so she would support it.

      • Chaz Proulx

        Of Jeanne.

        She give me hope.

        The other three give me reason to fight.

  • hannah

    It should be noted that the deprivation of human rights under cover of law has a long history.  Some human beings were declared less than human and less than equal on the basis of their having been purchased from a trader. And that was in our founding Constitution.  All kinds of violative behavior can be made the law of the land. Moreover, if human rights can be legally violated with impunity, why not the rights of citizens, which are actually guaranteed by the Constitution and subject to being amended at any time? Eliminating some adult resident persons from the category of citizen is already embedded in the law. All it takes is for a person to have been born in a foreign land to make it impossible for all the rights of citizenship to be carried out.  (e.g. the highest office in the land is precluded to individuals who weren’t born under the American flag).
    It’s a mistake to equate “law” with “justice.”  That the law serve the interests of justice and promote human rights is a goal that, so far, has not been achieved. Civil rights are both easier to guarantee and easier to remove. All it takes is the suspicion that national security might be compromised.

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