-By Larry Margasak, The Associated Press

December 20, 2012- WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats and Republicans sparred Wednesday over whether voter ID laws, attempts to purge voter rolls and restricted early voting were legitimate efforts to stop fraud or mainly Republican strategies to hold down Democratic votes.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a onetime Republican who recently turned Democrat, said the state GOP aimed its efforts at Hispanics and African-Americans. They cited as one example the elimination of early voting on the Sunday before the election, when members of those groups historically vote after church.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the panel, defended Republican efforts to clear the rolls of ineligible voters and was backed by two Republican secretaries of state — Matt Schultz of Iowa and Ken Bennett of Arizona.

"I believe voter ID laws are commonsense measures to prevent voter fraud," Grassley said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had sharp exchanges with the Republican secretaries of state over their attempts to find ineligible voters.

"Do you have evidence of non-citizens voting in Iowa?" Durbin asked Schultz.

"Since August 2012 six people have been arrested," Schultz said.

Responding to another question from Durbin, Schultz said 1.6 million Iowans voted in the last election.

"There are six cases," Durbin repeated.

Schultz said: "That is what we have so far. We just started the investigation in August."

Under prompting from Grassley, Schultz said he has been trying to get access to a Homeland Security Department database that tracks who is a legal resident eligible to receive government benefits. He said he has been stonewalled by the federal agency.



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