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Letter to the Senate opposing an amendment on voter photo IDs

June 04, 2007

Dear Senator::


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge your opposition to an amendment to be offered by Senator McConnell to S. 1739 that would require voters to obtain and show a government-issued photo ID before exercising their constitutional right to vote. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 110th Congress.

Last year, Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Voting Rights Act (VRA), with countless Members of Congress expressing their commitment to protecting the fundamental right to vote. The McConnell amendment would undermine this important, bipartisan victory and disenfranchise some of the very citizens the VRA is designed to protect.

Photo ID requirements encourage racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places, prevent eligible voters from participating in our democracy, and do nothing to combat genuine instances of voter fraud. It is a basic principle of our democracy that no citizen should have to pay for the right to vote. Yet, many individuals do not have a photo ID, and obtaining one costs time and money that many voters simply do not have. Authorizing funds so that states can give free ID to voters who cannot afford it, as the McConnell amendment does, is not sufficient. To do so would subject the right to vote to the mercy of the yearly appropriations process. Furthermore, citizens would still be faced with the expense and time involved in getting the documentation, such as a birth certificate, required to obtain a photo ID. 

Photo ID requirements will disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, older Americans, individuals with disabilities, rural and Native voters, low-income and homeless people, and married women, who are less likely to carry a photo ID. They also give poll workers an unacceptable level of discretion, opening the door to discrimination at the polls against racial, ethnic, and language-minority voters.

Supporters of the McConnell amendment argue that it is necessary as a fraud deterrent. Yet, there is no evidence that the type of fraud cited in support of the amendment - individual voters who misrepresent their identity - is anything but an anomaly. 

By requiring voters to obtain a photo ID, the McConnell amendment would create the equivalent of a poll tax. We strongly urge your opposition to this amendment.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy