Gaffe-prone Attorney General Eric Holder came under new Republican fire on Wednesday after calling for an end to state laws requiring voters to show identification at polling stations.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas immediately slammed Holder, saying: "Voter identification laws are constitutional and necessary to prevent fraud at the ballot box.
"Facing an election challenge next year, this administration has chosen to target efforts by the states to protect the democratic process," Cornyn said.
The increased pressure on Holder came on the same day that 22 House Republicans proposed a vote of no confidence in him for his handling of the Fast and Furious gunrunning scheme.
The move was headed by Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who told Newsmax that Holder’s speech was further proof that “he is completely out of his depth as attorney general.”
“In the game of baseball it’s three strikes and you’re out,” Gosar said.
“First, with the Fast and Furious gunrunning operation, then with the laundering of U.S taxpayers' money to Mexican cartels, and finally now an attempt to circumvent the states’ rights to promote secure elections, Attorney General Holder has shown that he is completely out of touch with the American people.
“If we are to maintain the integrity of the democratic process, it is not unreasonable that voters should show appropriate identification when they turn up at polling stations and for him to suggest otherwise flies in the face of common sense,” Gosar added. “I have already called on Mr. Holder to resign over Fast and Furious. This latest speech should serve as his final strike.”
Republicans have been increasingly concerned that the administration wants to loosen voter identification laws in states with significant numbers of immigrants, poor and black voters to help President Barack Obama win among traditionally Democratic-leaning minorities in the 2012 election.
Holder was greeted by around 100 protesters when he turned up at the symbolically important Lyndon Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas. In 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which allows the federal government to interfere in state voting laws if they would disproportionately deter minority groups from voting.
The conservative protesters, who had traveled from all over Texas, waved signs calling for Holder’s impeachment or indictment. They claimed that there is no need for government interference on voting. One of them, former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams, told Fox News, “He’s announcing war on Texas tonight.”
The attorney general said he was concerned about measures that tended “to restrict in ways that are subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, the ability of the American people to cast their ballots.” Protecting access to the voting process “must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative," he said.
And in a thinly veiled attack on Republicans, Holder said he was calling on political parties “to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success and, instead, achieve success by appealing to more voters.”
This year eight states — Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin — have passed laws insisting on voters showing government-issued photo identification at polling stations.
They no longer accept other forms of ID such as utility bills, bank statements, or Social Security cards. One study suggested the crackdown could affect up to 5 million voters, said The Washington Post.
Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation told the Post that Holder’s stance is based on “ideology and politics,” saying that courts have found voter ID laws in both Georgia and Indiana to be nondiscriminatory.
“Georgia’s law has been in place for five years,” said von Spakovsky, a Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration. “Not only did the turnout for African Americans not go down, it went up.”
The New York Times said Holder had made his speech “against the backdrop of a huge turnout of young and minority voters in the 2008 election that helped propel President Obama to victory.
“In the 2010 election, when voting by such groups dropped off and enthusiasm among conservative groups surged, Republicans won sweeping victories, winning or expanding control of many state legislatures and governorships,” the Times reported.
During his speech in Austin, Holder suggested a system that would automatically register all eligible voters and called for a ban on state legislators gerrymandering their own districts.
He also called for a federal law to prohibit the dissemination of fraudulent information which deceived people into not voting.
“The most recent census data indicated that Texas has gained more than 4 million new residents — the vast majority of whom are Hispanic — and this growth allows for four new congressional seats,” he said.
“However this state has proposed adding zero additional seats in which Hispanics would have the electoral opportunity envisioned by the Voting Rights Act.”
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