Senators Seek Study on Voter Laws

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 – A group of U.S. senators today asked the Government Accountability Office to study what they called an “alarming number” of new state laws that will make it “significantly harder” for millions of eligible voters to cast ballots this November. 

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter asking the non-partisan research arm of Congress for the review of new laws in at least 14 states.

The study is needed “to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote and are not unreasonably hindered or burdened in that process,” the letter said.

Some of the new restrictions, the senators added, are tantamount to poll taxes.

New state identification laws, by one estimate, will have a direct impact on 21 million American citizens who do not have a government-issued photo ID. The majority of those people are young would-be voters, the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and those earning $35,000 per year or less.

Other new state measures require proof of citizenship in order to register, prevent students from using college ID cards to register, place extreme burdens on third-party registration efforts, and eliminate or cut back early voting opportunities. 

“State actions that suppress the right to vote must not be tolerated,” the senators said. “We must make it easier, not harder, for poor and working people to vote and to participate in the political process.”

The senators also asked the GAO to examine data on any prosecutions or convictions for voter impersonation fraud during the past decade in states that enacted new restrictions on voting, since the threat of such fraud has been used as a justification for many of the new laws.

“It is critical that we have an accurate picture of these recent state laws, individual access to voting, and actual instances of voter impersonation fraud,” the letter said.

To read the senators’ letter, click here.

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