Last week sixteen senators, led by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate whether the Voting Rights Act prevented states from implementing restrictive “voter ID” measures.
The laws require, among other things, that eligible voters receive some sort of acceptable government-issued ID prior to casting a vote. What qualifies as an acceptable ID varies from state to state. For example in Texas a conceal-and-carry permit qualifies but a student ID from the University of Texas does not.
According to the request, the effect of these laws is to illegally disenfranchise thousands of elderly, disabled and low-income voters.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act mandates that states with a history of systematic voting discrimination preclear any widespread changes to their voting laws to make sure such changes do not effectively disenfranchise minority voters.
The timing for the request is crucial as the Supreme Court has made it clear that it has Section 5 in its sights and, if given the right set of facts, will strike the preclearance requirement.
Photo from hjl via flickr.