Ellison Weighs in on Supreme Court Voter Case

May 4, 2008 by  


Congressman Ellison and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Kilpatrick on Supreme Court Voter Id Case

“…disenfranchises the poor, the elderly and minority communities”

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) and Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Detroit) voice their profound opposition to today’s Supreme Court decision allowing states to require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, essentially validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.

“I am deeply disappointed by today’s Supreme Court decision. While the requirement to have photo ids seems harmless, they are in fact the modern day poll tax,” said Ellison. “The ruling effectively disenfranchises thousands of voters from our most vulnerable communities – the poor, elderly and minority communities.”

Congressman Ellison, along with all 42 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the case striking down an Indiana photo id requirement as an unconstitutional poll tax.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision to endorse a burdensome voter id practice which blatantly divorces immigrants, the economically disadvantaged and seniors from the electoral process is unconstitutional and un-American,” remarked Congresswoman Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “During this historic season, when either an African American male or a woman will serve as the Democratic nominee for the United States Presidency, the highest court of the law has chosen regressive voter suppression tactics instead of stimulating broad voter participation for all Americans.”

“Advocates of voter id verification seek to minimize the photo id requirement by citing the need to do so when purchasing fishing and hunting licenses, or obtaining a drivers license. But none of those actions are as fundamental as voting, which is guaranteed in the Constitution. It is first found in the 15th Amendment and then expressly underscored without any additional requirement in the 24th Amendment,” Ellison said.

The Department of Justice claimed that photo requirements in federal elections have no discriminatory impact on minorities, senior citizens or young voters.

The facts speak otherwise. According to a June 2005 University of Wisconsin study:

· An estimated 23% of people aged 65 and over did not have a valid photo id;
· Less than half of Milwaukee County’s African American and Hispanic adults did not have valid driver’s license or photo identification compared to 85% of their White counterparts who did.
· For young minority adults, aged 18-24, only 26% of African American youth and 34% of Hispanic youth had a valid driver’s license compared to 71% of their White counterparts who did.

“In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation,” Ellison stated. “We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone’s ability to exercise that right. It is my sincere hope that states, like Minnesota who lead the nation in voter turnout, do not view this flawed ruling as reason to enact disenfranchising laws,” Ellison said

Ellison went on to note that six Justices did recognize that Indiana’s law places a heavier burden on some eligible citizens, particularly elderly and low-income persons who could be blocked from voting without the proper documentation. “They should keep in mind that the Court left open the possibility of future lawsuits against restrictive ID laws that prevent people from voting,” Ellison stated.

10-19

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