The two parties sparred late Tuesday night over the proliferation of voter identification laws across the country, as several House Democrats said these laws would make it harder to minorities to vote, and a lone Republican said the evidence of voter fraud demands a solution such as ensuring all voters are legal U.S. citizens via a picture ID.
"They have only one true purpose, which is to disenfranchise eligible voters," Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeThe Hill’s Whip List: House Iran vote 20 lawmakers traveling with Obama to Africa Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators want DHS to have all the cyber power MORE (D-Ohio) said on the floor of various state laws. Several Democrats joined her to add that Republican claims of voter fraud are baseless.
"There is no threat of voter fraud," Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) said. "Are there rampant cases of impersonation, voting as someone else? No. Voter fraud is not rampant, there are not numerous cases of impersonation."
Holt added that there may be some isolated cases of voter fraud, but said these do not demand solutions that could disenfranchise millions of voters.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke toward the end of the Democrats' special order speech by repeating that voter fraud is a nonexistent problem.
"They claim we need to crack down the epidemic of voter fraud that does not exist," he said of those who support the state laws. "There is simply no evidence of widespread voter fraud."
But in his own special order speech, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) rejected these arguments and said the scandal involving the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), in which the group admitted to fraudulently registering hundreds of thousands of voters, should count as widespread fraud.
"How much more widespread would you have to be than operations going on in nearly all if not all of the 50 states, the major cities, and millions of dollars spent to pay people to go out and fraudulently register voters?" he asked.
King reminded his Democratic colleagues that Congress agreed to shut down funding for ACORN, and said that group's activities seem to have damaged the integrity of the vote in the United States. "I think there's massive evidence of widespread voter registration fraud, and from that flowed fraudulent votes as well," he said.
King added that the Obama administration's Justice Department only selectively enforces voting laws.
"They have testified before the Judiciary Committee, where I serve, that they select which laws they want to enforce and which ones they do not want to enforce with regard to voting rights in the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice," King said. "They have a policy that they have testified to under oath under several different scenarios that they will not … move a voting rights case if it damages a minority. That's the policy of the Department of Justice."
King added that this was shown in a recent case in which the Department of Justice overruled a North Carolina decision to strip party identification in local elections, in part because this change would make it harder for blacks to vote for Democrats.
"If you read the Department of Justice's agent's letter on that, and that was Loretta King, that African Americans — no, she said blacks — wouldn't know who to vote for if they didn't have a 'D' beside their name," King said. "Therefore, she forbid them from abolishing partisan elections in a city council and mayoral race in Kingston North Carolina."
That event happened in 2009, when then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King wrote that removing political identification cues at the ballot will "in all likelihood, eliminate the single factor that allows black candidates to be elected to office."
In contrast, Rep. King said Tuesday night that the case of voter intimidation in Philadelphia involving members of the Black Panthers standing outside a voting location has not been pursued.
The late Tuesday speeches on voter ID laws came just a day after Democrats called on the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on how these laws might affect voter rights.