Talking Points Memo reports that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expressed concern over states seeking to “restrict the ability of people to get to the polls” during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.
Florida is one of many states that have passed laws making it harder for people to vote and harder for groups to register voters. Opponents of the new laws say the rules will make it more difficult for minorities and young people — largely considered a part of the Democratic base — to vote in the upcoming election.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has been one of the most active opponents of the new laws. He recently sent a letter to 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 sent the letter days after requesting a congressional hearing on the matter.
“This Department of Justice will be aggressive at looking at this jurisdictions that have attempted for whatever reason to restrict the ability of people to get to the polls,” Holder said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) — who chaired a hearing on attempts to place restrictions on voting rights through measures like voter ID, shortening early voting periods and limiting the capabilities of groups trying to run voter registation drives — asked Holder what DOJ was doing to ensure voters weren’t disenfranchised.
“I think a fundamental question is raised: who are we as a nation?” Holder said. “Shouldn’t we be coming up with ways to encourage more people to get to the polls to express their views?” he continued.
“I am not talking about any one particular state effort, but more generally I think for those who would consider trying to use methods, techniques to discourage people from coming to the polls — that’s inconsistent with what we say we are as a nation,” Holder said.
Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of its law from a court in the District of Columbia. Five counties in Florida require federal preclearance of voting laws per the Voting Rights Act.
Last week, 196 members of Congress, including six from Florida’s delegation, signed a letter sent to secretaries of state all over the country expressing their disapproval of new voting restrictions.