(Washington, DC) Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:
“Across the United States, Republican controlled state legislatures are undertaking vigorous efforts to suppress the voting rights of a wide array of the American public. I have introduced the Easy Voting Act to counter these trends. The bill will require states to allow early voting up to the day of the election, ban identification requirements, and allow for same day registration or address changes,” said the Congresswoman.
A recent study conducted by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that up to five million voters may be prevented from registering to vote in the 2012 elections because of onerous restrictions tacked on during this legislative session. These laws will discourage or even block the poor, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and students from attempting to register or vote. In the words of Michael Waldman, the executive director of the Brennan Center, this is “the most significant rollback in voting rights in decades.”
The Congresswoman continued, “in the state of Florida for instance, Governor Rick Scott is utilizing a tremendous amount of energy and resources to stamp out the gains the civil rights community has worked to achieve over the last few decades. The elections bill passed this year severely curtails voters’ basic rights by including numerous provisions which make it extremely difficult for many of my constituents to register and cast a vote. One egregious item that the state of Florida is implementing is the elimination of early voting on the last Sunday before Election Day (Ohio in fact has eliminated early voting on Sundays entirely). Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of evidence that demonstrates African Americans and Hispanics vote on Sundays in far greater numbers than whites. Statistics show that in the 2008 general election in Florida, 33.2% of those who voted early on the last Sunday before Election Day were African American, while 23.6% were Hispanic.
Arguably, the biggest contributors to voter retrogression are voter ID laws. This year, 34 states introduced legislation requiring a voter ID (while five states - Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, have already passed voter ID laws, with Georgia and Indiana already having strict photo identification requirements in place).
The Brennan Center estimates that 11 percent of potential voters do not have state-issued photo identification. And the Center found that the new laws would affect a total of 3.2 million voters in the states where the change is scheduled to take effect before the 2012 elections.
It is outright embarrassing that just a decade after the 2000 elections more than half of the states across the nation are on the verge of taking a huge step backwards with respect to inclusivity and the basic right to vote. Given that voting makes up the underlying foundation of our democracy, I believe that contrary to these misguided efforts, it is critical to make it EASIER for people to register and to vote, not to erect more barriers!”