ACLU Urges Senate to Oppose Voter ID Amendment to Immigration Reform Bill

June 5, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate to oppose Senator Mitch McConnell’s amendment to S. 1348, the immigration reform bill, which is expected to receive a floor vote as soon as this evening. Senator McConnell’s amendment would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in federal elections. This requirement imposes an unnecessary and undue burden on the exercise of the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans who are eligible, registered, and qualified to vote.

“The right to vote, and to have every vote counted, is the most important civil right of all,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress should be in the business of encouraging full participation in our democratic process, not throwing up obstacles between Americans and the voting booth. Proposals like the McConnell amendment are one of the greatest threats to fair and equal voting rights today. The Senate should oppose this and any proposal that would limit qualified Americans’ ability to exercise their right to vote.”

The ACLU opposes voter ID proposals because:

  • No eligible citizen should have to pay to vote. For voters who don’t have a photo ID, requiring them to purchase one in order to vote would be equivalent to a poll tax. Photo IDs cost money — even if the IDs themselves are “free,” the birth certificates, passports, or other documents required to get an ID are not.
  • Voter ID requirements pose a substantial hardship for some citizens. Voter ID requirements will have a disproportionate and unfair impact on low-income, racial and ethnic minority voters, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others who do not have a photo ID, nor the money or ability to acquire one.
  • Voting is a fundamental right. Senator McConnell’s amendment would restrict, not increase, access to the voting booth. Rather than erecting hurdles that prevent Americans from voting, lawmakers should be working to ensure that every eligible voter is allowed to vote, and that every vote counts.

“The McConnell amendment amounts to a solution in search of a problem,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Policy Counsel for Civil Rights. “Supporters of this amendment argue it’s necessary to require photo IDs in order to combat efforts to skew elections, but recent evidence has shown no proof of widespread organized voter fraud. This amendment only serves to disfranchise American citizens.”

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