Donna Smith, Reuters, September 20, 2006
Washington—In a move to crack down against illegal immigrants voting in U.S. elections, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to require Americans to provide proof of U.S. citizenship to vote in federal elections.
Democratic opponents said the bill would discourage eligible voters. But it passed with overwhelming support of Republicans who argued that it would prevent fraud and stop illegal immigrants from casting ballots in U.S. elections.
“Those who are in this country illegally want the same rights as United States citizens without obeying the laws of our land,” Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican, said during the House debate. “We should not let these criminals defraud our election system by allowing them to vote.”
The legislation passed on a largely party-line vote of 228-196 and although immigration issues are a hot topic in this year’s congressional elections, it has little chance of winning Senate agreement before the November 7 vote.
The bill would require voters to present a photo identification to vote in federal elections in 2008. By 2010 the photo identification would also have to show the voter is a U.S. citizen.
Democrats said the bill’s requirements would hurt the poor, the elderly and others unable to easily obtain the documents required. They argued that obtaining required documents can be expensive and that there was no evidence to suggest voter fraud is widespread.
“It’s an imaginary problem,” Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat, told reporters. “This is calculated to disenfranchise a certain segment of our society and those are minorities. The collateral damage will be seniors, the homebound, victims of disaster and members of the armed services.”
But Republicans argued that requiring proof of citizenship and a photo identification would not impose a great burden on voters because identification is routinely required for other purposes.
If it were enacted it would likely face legal challenges. Judges in Missouri and Georgia recently ruled unconstitutional state laws requiring voter photo identification. Several other states do require photo or other forms of identification.
It is one of a number of immigration-related measures House Republicans planned to bring to a vote before the November 7 congressional elections. Last week the House authorized the construction of a 700 mile fence along parts of the 2,000 mile border with Mexico. The Senate was poised to take up the measure later this week after it cleared a procedural hurdle.
Chellie Pingree of Common Cause also denounced the bill, saying, “It’s a political opportunity for them to show that they are tough on fraud. It is an anti-immigration issue.”
“I think it stirs up voter fears at the polls,” Pingree said.
From the Federation for American Immigration Reform, September 20, 2006
House Passes H.R. 4844, The Federal Election Integrity Act
On Wednesday, September 20, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 by a vote of 228-196. As the legislative session winds to a close, H.R. 4844 is another part of the House GOP national security strategy devised to show political support for securing the nation at its borders and now at the ballot box. H.R.4844 seeks to prevent fraud in the election process by requiring photo identification for voters in federal elections. All states will be mandated to check voters’ photo identification by the November 2008 election. By November 2010, states will only be allowed to accept photo identification that was issued upon presenting proof of citizenship. Eligible voters who cannot pay for identification cards will be provided one by the state at no charge. Costs for such a mandate will be reimbursed by the federal government.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed 81% of those surveyed favored an ID requirement for voting. In another poll conducted by Rasmussen, 77% of likely voters across the country agree that displaying a photo ID should be required to cast a vote. A number of states have already acted to require voters to follow proof of citizenship. In Phoenix, Arizona, registration went up 15% after passing a referendum requiring voters to prove citizenship when registering to vote. These changes encourage citizens to vote and discourage illegal voting.
Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) said in a statement, “Every day millions of Americans show a picture ID to pay by check, board a plane, or buy alcohol or tobacco. Surely, the sanctity of the ballot warrants as much protection as these activities. Requiring people to show an ID to prove their citizenship and eligibility will protect the vote, and help restore confidence in our system.”
FAIR applauds the passage of H.R. 4844. Today the House considers three more security related bills while the Senate continues to debate the Secure Fence Act of 2006 passed by the House last week. FAIR will keep you posted on today’s activities.
Boston—-Federal observers will monitor polling places in Boston and Springfield on Tuesday to determine if those cities are protecting the voting rights of Hispanic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other immigrant voters.
Both cities were sued by the Justice Department for alleged polling place violations and the sides settled their cases before trial.
Springfield announced last week that 73 new bilingual poll workers were hired to help Spanish-speaking residents at the polls. One in four poll workers are bilingual, city officials say. The city says it will have 95 bilingual poll workers for the November election.
Last September, Boston agreed to provide ballots, registration notices, and other forms in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Boston also agreed to provide more training to poll workers regarding the Voting Rights Act, and to hire more bilingual poll workers.
Hispanic residents comprise 14 percent of Boston’s 590,000 residents, while Chinese and Vietnamese residents make up just more than 5 percent, according to 2000 Census figures.
Twenty-seven percent of Springfield’s 152,000 residents are Hispanic, according to Census figures.
The Voting Rights Act requires communities with a minority voter population of at least 5 percent or 10,000 people to provide election help in that group’s language.