Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saying that voter fraud in the U.S. is almost nonexistent, vowed Thursday to "get photo IDs into the hands" of people in states with Republican-sponsored voter-ID laws.
"Republicans across the country have engaged in a full-scale attack on the right to vote, seeking ways to restrict or limit voters' ability to cast their ballots for their own partisan advantage," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat. "Democrats refuse to stand by and watch this happen."
This year, 17 states controlled by Republicans have approved tougher laws to prevent voter fraud, some including measures that require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. A total of 31 states now require voters to show a photo ID, and similar laws are pending in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Republican officials say the new laws have been necessary in light of recent examples of voter fraud linked to the Democratic Party and its supporters, such as the now-defunct group ACORN, which was responsible for an estimated 400,000 fraudulent registrations in 2008.
Other recent examples of voter fraud include a case in Wake County, N.C., where three voters were charged in August with voting twice in the 2008 presidential election, and a member of the executive committee of the NAACP in Tunica County, Miss., who was sentenced in April to five years in prison for fraudulently casting absentee ballots. She was convicted of voting in the names of six other voters, as well as in the names of four dead voters.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee said Americans overwhelmingly support GOP efforts to protect "the integrity of our democracy at the ballot box."
"Photo IDs are required to drive a car, collect government assistance and fly on a plane," said spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "Knowing President Obama is facing a steep climb to re-election, Democrats are resorting to scare tactics rather than addressing voter-fraud cases such as ACORN as we've seen in previous elections."
Mrs. Wasserman Schultz dismissed evidence of past voter fraud as isolated.
"We've heard the Republican talking points that these restrictions are necessary to prevent voter fraud," she told reporters. "But the truth is that every major investigation into voter fraud, including a five-year investigation by the Bush Justice Department, has arrived at the same conclusion: There is almost none. It simply wasn't there."
The DNC chairwoman said 25 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics lack proper photo IDs to vote, and that the Democratic Party will "make sure we get photo IDs into the hands" of people who want to vote. A DNC-sponsored report said the new voter laws are most likely to suppress voting by minorities, the disabled and younger voters, a majority of whom are likely to vote Democratic in 2012.
In the House on Thursday, lawmakers took up GOP-sponsored legislation to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which was established after the 2000 race to improve the administration of elections. Republicans said the EAC is ineffective and its functions should be transferred to the Federal Election Commission.
The White House Office on Management and Budget said the Obama administration "strongly opposes" passage of the legislation, which would also end the $3 "check-off" option on tax returns to support public financing of presidential elections. Ironically, President Obama in 2008 was the first presidential nominee to reject public financing, when his campaign raised a record $750 million.
Democratic officials said they will enhance their efforts to register voters and recruit volunteers through a new website, ProtectingTheVote.org. They also will begin organizing lawyers next month to monitor balloting during the presidential election.
"We are prepared to take that action as we move toward the elections," said Will Crossley, the DNC's director of voter protection.
Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said the GOP-backed laws are "designed to rig an election when Republicans can't win on the merits."
But Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, told a congressional panel this fall that photo-ID laws do not disenfranchise voters.
"Contrary to the near-hysterical claims of opponents, voter ID does not depress the turnout of voters, including minority, poor, and elderly voters," he said.
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