-By Ramsey Cox
November 5, 2011- Tighter voting laws, such as those requiring voters to produce a photo ID before casting their ballot, in several states could not only disenfranchise some voters, but also lead to longer voting lines next year, according to the results of a mock election in Wisconsin.
House Republicans and Democrats bickered Tuesday over the new laws on the House floor. Democrats said voter ID laws disenfranchise minority, elderly and student voters — who typically support Democrats — while Republicans claimed the new laws reduce voter fraud.
“They claim we need to crack down on an epidemic of voter fraud that does not exist,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “There is simply no evidence of any widespread voter fraud.”
Republicans cited the example of ACORN voter registration drives where workers falsely registered voters across the country in 2008.
Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) wrote a letter Monday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) demanding a hearing on state voting laws. In the letter they compared some of the laws to a poll tax, such as the ones used in the South prior to the Voting Acts Right of 1965 to deny blacks the vote.
“I want every American citizen who is qualified to vote,” said Judiciary Committee member Steve King (R-Iowa). “I don't want anybody slowed up at the polls and intimidated because of any reason. But to imply that people are denied their right to vote in this country as if this were 1960 all over again really is a false premise.”
Hoyer, along with 196 House Democrats, sent a letter to secretaries of state asking them to oppose new state election laws.
“Across the country, states are trying to make it harder to vote by making identification requirements stricter and reducing early voting,” the letter stated. “Proponents of these new measures claim they are to counter an epidemic of voter fraud. However, there is simply no evidence to back it up. What is evident is that those making the new rules are doing so because of a political agenda.”
Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have photo ID requirements and several other states have implemented new voting rules that reduce early voting and limit same-day registration.
“Wisconsin has joined the map of shame,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said. “It is one of seven states in red here on the map of shame that have very stringent voter ID laws in order to be able to vote.”
Wisconsin, which passed its new voting laws this summer, performed a mock election last month in Madison with election officials and volunteers. The dry run revealed waiting times for voters could greatly increase when the law takes effect on Feb. 21 — the spring primary.
Collen Werwie, the spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), said the governor is optimistic that the ID requirement will help poll workers, who are often elderly, look up names on voter rosters faster since the correct name spelling will be right in front of them.
But the October mock election, arranged by Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, proved new training of poll workers is greatly needed.