Attorney General Eric Holder harshly criticized the wave of voter identification laws sweeping the country and defended the Justice Department’s role in blocking those laws from taking effect in some states.
In an interview on MSNBC, Holder said that the voter identification laws amounted to “a solution in search of a problem.” The attorney general said that there was little evidence of voter fraud and that the laws requiring voters to have state-issued identification were bound to inhibit voter turnout.
The Justice Department recently rejected Texas’s voter identification law, saying that it would disenfranchise a large number of Hispanic voters. In the interview, Holder said Texas had failed to make the case that voter fraud was a pervasive issue.
“We asked them to show us the statistic and prove that that there is voter fraud,” Holder said. “We got nothing from Texas. There is no statistical proof that voter fraud is a big concern in this country. Thus, the voter ID laws deal with a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Holder was asked why the Justice Department had an issue with voters being required to show identification when most people have to produce licenses and other documentation for a number of routine functions.
“What we’re talking about here is a constitutional right,” the attorney general said. “This is not a privilege.”
He added: “The right to vote is something that’s fundamental to who we are as Americans. People have given their lives; people have sacrificed a great deal in order to give people the right to vote. We want to make sure that our elections are free from fraud. But there is no proof that our elections are marred by fraud."
In the case of Texas, Holder said that there are roughly 800,000 people in the state who don’t have the state-issued identification items that the state’s law would require.
“They have to travel to get the IDs,” Holder said. “In some cases 176 miles. They don’t have the capacity to get the free documents necessary for the IDs. All these things are impediments to the very thing that most Americans expect to do as a matter of right.”
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