U.S. Senate Democrats decry voter photo ID bill
Fri Sep 22, 5:38 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats on Friday said legislation that would require voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to vote in federal elections was little more than a poll tax and urged Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to stop the bill.
The measure, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week largely along party lines, would require voters to present at the polls a photo identification that also proves citizenship for federal elections beginning in 2010.
Republicans said proof of citizenship is needed to crack down on voter fraud and ensure illegal immigrants do not vote in U.S. elections.
Democrats said there is no evidence of widespread abuse and that the cost and effort required to get such a document would discourage poor voters, the elderly and people with disabilities.
"Worst of all, this bill recalls a dark era in our nation when individuals were required to pay a poll tax to cast their ballot and has been termed a 21st century poll tax," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and three other Democrats wrote in a letter to Frist, a Tennessee Republican.
Democrats said the only identification that would meet that requirement is a passport, which costs $97 to obtain. Only about 25 percent of Americans have passports.
Democrats fear Republicans will attach the photo identification measure to a domestic security spending bill the House and Senate could vote on next week.
They say such a move would be politically motivated to draw Democratic opposition to the homeland security bill that otherwise would easily pass just weeks ahead of the November 7 congressional elections.
If the identification measure were enacted it would likely face legal challenges. Recently judges in Missouri and Georgia ruled unconstitutional state laws requiring voter photo identification.