In the United States the right to vote and the free and fair exercise of voting rights by all eligible voters are fundamental principles of our democracy.
In the past year, we have witnessed a disturbing increase in state legislation to impose troubling restrictions on voting. Legislation has been introduced in more than 30 states and already passed in at least seven states requiring voters to present current government-issued photo identification when voting.Research sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice has found that approximately 11 percent of all eligible voters do not have current government-issued photo IDs. Legislation requiring voter photo IDs creates a disproportionate burden on racial minorities, senior citizens, young people and low-wage workers. Eighteen percent of citizens 65 and older, 25 percent of African American voting-age citizens, 16 percent of Latino voting-age citizens, 20 percent of young people (ages 18–29) and 15 percent of citizens earning less than $35,000 a year do not have current government photo IDs.
Other states have passed laws requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote – laws that have a disparate impact on naturalized immigrants and on elderly, poor and other citizens who lack this documentation. The state of Florida recently enacted legislation that will, among other provisions, impede full civic participation by curtailing early voting and impose onerous new requirements and stiff criminal penalties on organizations engaged in voter registration activities.
Proponents of photo ID legislation, citizenship requirements,and other restrictions have been unable to provide evidence these strict requirements provide solutions to problems that threaten voting integrity or correct election irregularities. Current election laws that do not include strict photo ID provisions have proven to be effective and have not presented impediments to free and fair elections.
There also is evidence that the administration and implementation of legislation requiring voter Ids, citizenship requirements,and imposing other restrictions on voting requires significant monetary resources, creates an excessive financial burden for states already in financial crisis and further depletes resources needed for basic services for state residents, including education, health and human services, police and fire protection and other critical needs.
Further, efforts to adopt restrictive voting legislation have been part of a coordinated partisan campaign across the country to attack democracy. The proponents of voter photo ID and other restrictive legislation, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative organization linked to corporate and right-wing donors including the billionaire Koch brothers, also have introduced companion legislation that attacks the rights of workers and collective bargaining.
Impediments to voting rights cause massive disenfranchisement and voter suppression, threatening our democracy. This legislation is an attack on democracy and voting rights and is part of a coordinated effort to attack working people. The AFL-CIO opposes voter photo ID legislation and other measures that restrict or curtail voting. The AFL-CIO will educate and mobilize our members and the broader community to regain, maintain and advance voting rights in this country. We will work in coalition with other labor and community-based organizations to push back against these coordinated efforts to disenfranchise voters, and we will work with our partners and allies as we head toward important state and federal elections to protect the right to vote.