One hundred and ninety-six members of Congress, including six from Florida’s delegation, have signed a letter sent to secretaries of state all over the country expressing their disapproval of new voting restrictions.
With the 2012 elections looming, Florida and other states have passed a slew of laws that make it harder for people to vote and harder for groups to register voters. Opponents of the new laws say the rules will make it harder for minorities and young people — largely been considered a significant part of the Democratic base — to vote in the upcoming election.
The office of Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced that he “led a letter sent to Secretaries of State today urging them to oppose new state measures adopted over the last year that would make it harder for eligible voters to register or vote.”
“A year from now, millions of Americans will head to the polls to exercise their most fundamental right – the right to vote,” Hoyer said in a press release. “Unfortunately, in states across the country, partisan measures have been adopted that would make it more difficult for nearly five million voters, particularly the poor, young people, the elderly, and minorities, to register and vote.”
“Voter suppression has no place in our country,” Hoyer said. “That’s why Democrats are sending a letter to Secretaries of State urging them to oppose these partisan efforts to hinder access to the ballot and urging them to work in a bipartisan way to ensure all Americans can exercise their constitutional right to be heard.”
In the letter to the secretaries of state, House Democrats wrote:
A disturbing trend is emerging. Election legislation and administration appear to be increasingly the product of partisan plays. Election officials are seen as partisan combatants, rather than stewards of our democracy. It is critical for our democracy that this does not continue. Voting hours, voting sites, identification requirements, voter registration regulation and access to mail ballots should not be used as weapons to achieve a preferred electoral outcome.
We are asking you, as front line participants in this process, to put partisan considerations aside and serve as advocates for enfranchisement. Critical to your role is the fair presentation and evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with any proposed change in election administration. We ask that you be vigilant in protecting against fraud but equally vigilant in protecting the franchise for all our citizens. History has taught us that our democracy has suffered far more from elected officials who chose to deny some of our citizens the opportunity to vote than from any other cause. There is no greater threat to our democracy than a diminished belief that the rules are fair and fairly administered.
The letter sent today was signed by six Florida Democrats: Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
House Democrats are not the only Florida lawmakers fighting the laws. This week Sen. Bill Nelson wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Justice Department launch an investigation into whether the “new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout.” He also sent a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asking him to consider “conducting investigative field hearings” to see if the new voting laws were “an orchestrated effort to disenfranchise voters” in a manner that is possibly illegal.
Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of the law from a court in the District of Columbia.