The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Releases Statement Following Speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on Voting Laws
Lawyers’ Committee Commends Holder’s Call to Action to Address Restrictive Voting Laws and Modernize our Elections
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 13, 2011 – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released the statement below following today’s speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on voting laws. Executive Director Barbara Arnwine and Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House heard the speech firsthand in Austin, TX:
“The Lawyers’ Committee commends U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for exercising leadership in speaking out against suppressive voting laws sweeping the nation,” said Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “The fundamental right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be American and participate in our democracy. As General Holder so eloquently stated, it’s time to enact real solutions to the real problems impacting our elections to create a truly accessible democracy for all Americans.”
The racial impact of restrictive voter ID laws and other restrictive measures continue to plague minorities. Sadly, this has become the new age of Jim Crow laws. The Lawyers’ Committee released the interactive “Map of Shame” to highlight the impact of these laws across the country. Numerous studies have shown that minorities disproportionately lack government-issued photo identification. These laws serve no other purpose than to potentially disenfranchise one in one in four African American voters (according to a 2006 nationwide study of voting-age citizens).
More recent data submitted to the Justice Department from South Carolina and Texas also confirm these disparities among current registered voters. In South Carolina, the non-white share of the State’s registered voters lacking a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID is 12 percent greater than the non-white share of all registered voters (34 percent versus 31 percent). Similarly, in Texas the Latino share of the State’s registered voters lacking a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID is 31.8 percent greater than the Latino share of all registered voters in the State (29 percent versus 22 percent).
The Lawyers’ Committee and other civil rights groups have been consistently meeting with the Department of Justice and have pushed them to be more proactive in addressing these suppressive voting laws. In addition, we continue to stress the need for vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“These suppressive voting laws do little to eliminate the real problems that plague our voting system,” said Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House. “Too many voters have been left out of our democracy because of problems with our antiquated voter registration system as well as deceptive voting information and intimidation tactics. As the Attorney General declared in his speech, it’s time our leaders in Congress enact the recently re-introduced Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention act and take up policies that will modernize our system of voter registration to one that is secure, accurate, and ensures all eligible Americans are automatically and permanently added to our voter rolls.”
We agree with Attorney General Holder that our outdated and cumbersome voter registration system is the single largest cause of voting problems, accounting for one-third of all problems reported by voters to the non-partisan Election Protection coalition in 2008. Furthermore, the importance of combating deceptive voting practices – a true fraud being perpetrated against American voters – was highlighted by the recent conviction of a campaign aide to former Governor Robert Ehrlich’s campaign for authorizing deceptive robocalls in an attempt to suppress the vote of African-Americans in Maryland.
“I was proud to stand with then-Senator Barack Obama when he introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act in 2007,” Ms. Arnwine added. “I applaud Senators Charles Schumer and Benjamin Cardin for continuing this legacy and call on Congress to urgently pass this crucial legislation before the 2012 elections to ensure all Americans can vote free of these nefarious and disenfranchising practices.”
The Election Protection coalition, led by the Lawyers’ Committee, will continually work to combat these nefarious tactics. We are grateful to Senators Schumer, Cardin, and other members of the House including Congressman John Conyers, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and others.
About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment discrimination, voting, education and environmental justice. For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.