As the country prepares for next year’s presidential election, more than a dozen states have passed new voting laws. These laws are meant to deter fraud. For example, South Carolina and Texas enacted photo ID laws, and Florida made several changes to its voting procedures, including reducing the length of its early voting period.
However, the opponents, including the Obama administration, are afraid that the laws will decrease the minority’s voter turnout. In fact, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), believes that these laws place voting rights “under attack…[by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.”
Moreover, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would aggressively review these laws. In fact, the agency is already reviewing some of these laws under the “preclearance” provision of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The review requires these 16 states to prove that the new laws are not discriminatory before they can take effect.
In his speech from the presidential library, Holder declared that protecting Americans’ right to vote “must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative.” He further urged citizens to “call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, achieve success by appealing to more voters.”
Holder also supports effectuating an initiative for universal voter registration. He said it could be accomplished “if we have the political will to bring our election systems into the 21st century…by compiling – from databases that already exist – a list of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction.” Holder further stated that, “All eligible citizens can and should be automatically registered to vote. The ability to vote is a right – it is not a privilege.”
For more on the Obama administration’s opposition to the new voting laws, see “Obama Administration Joins Battle Over Voting Rights.”