Two Republican members of Congress on Tuesday hit back at White House assertions that GOP-backed voter identification laws are designed to "make it harder for eligible Americans to cast a vote."
Reps. Todd Rokita of Indiana and Candice Miller of Michigan, both formerly in charge of overseeing election laws in their states, responded to remarks made on Aug. 6 by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest about the upcoming congressional debate on the reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Replying to a question from April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks as to why a Voting Rights Act is still required, Earnest said "there are documented instances where Republicans have acknowledged that they could seek a political advantage based on the way that elections are administered."
President Barack Obama, said Earnest, "has been quite disappointed at the amount of energy and effort that's been expended by Republicans to make it harder for eligible Americans to cast a vote. That's in part why you've seen the Department of Justice go to such great lengths to try to protect the voting rights of veterans and Spanish speakers and elderly Americans who may not have driver's licenses — and yes, even African-Americans."
Rokita, who served as Indiana's secretary of state from 2002 to 2010, said: "There is no case of outright denial of voting and there should not have to be."
He noted that under federal law, voters who show up at the polls without identification are given provisional ballots and then have seven days to produce identification to make their vote count.
"Josh Earnest should certainly know that if people who don't have a driver's license or any form of identification actually exist, they can obtain a special ID," Rokita said, adding that his state is one where voters without a driver's license can obtain a special photo ID "primarily for voting, but also for other needs they may have, such as purchasing medication."
As to the argument that voter ID laws make it "harder for eligible Americans to cast a vote," Rokita pointed to Indiana's law, which he oversaw implementation of as secretary of state and which was successfully upheld by the Supreme Court.
"In 2000 and 2004, before we had our voter ID law, the average turnout in the primaries was 21 percent of eligible voters and the average turnout in the general election was 57 percent," he told us. "After the law took effect [in 2006], in 2008 and 2012, the average turnout in the primaries was 31 percent and in the general election it was 60 percent."
Michigan's Miller, secretary of state from 1994 to 2002, recalled to Newsmax how "I was responsible for conducting open, free and fair elections. It was a responsibility I took very seriously, because protecting our fundamental right to vote means protecting the foundation of this country's democratic system.
"Election administrators across the country have a very important but difficult job, and they often employ different methods to keep their voter rolls clean and ensure that citizens of their states are not disenfranchised by fraudulent activity.
"In some cases that includes requiring voters to show proof of ID. Of course, that may not work for every state, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all prescription to election administration and why the White House should stop trying to tell states how to run their elections."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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