02.08.17

Kilmer, Sewell, Cummings, and 75 Colleagues Call on President Trump to Investigate Voter Suppression in Presidential Election

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), and 75 other Members of Congress sent a letter calling on President Trump to investigate voter suppression in the 2016 Presidential election as part of any investigation he conducts into voting irregularities. The Members noted that he recently signaled he would use taxpayer dollars to conduct an investigation into the voter fraud myth. The Members asked that any investigation into irregularities also include a complete examination of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, including the possible impact of new restrictive state voting laws that last year were in effect for the first time in a presidential election.

“Every American deserves a voice in our elections and the freedom to cast their vote without interference,” the Members wrote in the letter to President Trump. “These restrictive laws and intimidation tactics make clear that it is time to put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act and counter voter disenfranchisement. We hope to work together with you to remedy widespread voter disenfranchisement across our country.”

In a 2014 ruling, a federal court in Wisconsin found that over 300,000 registered voters in the state did not have the proper ID needed to vote because of a law signed by the Governor. In another ruling in 2014, a federal court found that over 600,000 registered voters in Texas at the time did not have the voter ID that the state newly required to vote.  North Carolina has eliminated same-day voter registration and cut off an entire week of early voting. In Florida, a law bars anyone with a felony from voting unless they go to the state capital and request clemency. A total of 14 states had restrictive new voting laws in place for the first time in a presidential election last year.

The full text of the letter reads as follows.

Dear President Trump:

We write regarding your recent call for an investigation into alleged voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election.  As an initial matter, claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election are largely unsubstantiated.  Inquiries conducted thus far have not revealed any evidence of widespread voter fraud, nor is there is evidence substantiating your claim that “3 to 5 million illegal votes” were responsible for Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win.  Nevertheless, we are writing to demand that any investigation your Administration conducts into voter irregularities in the 2016 Presidential election include a thorough investigation and analysis of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. 

Our nation’s history on voting rights is checkered, and the systemic disenfranchisement of low-income and minority voters is longstanding and well documented.  In fact, it was not until 600 people marched through Selma, Alabama in 1965 that Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.  It is now 52 years later and the battle is far from over. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court effectively dismantled the Voting Rights Act when it struck down a section of the law that required jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination to receive “preclearance” before changing their voting laws.  The result is 14 new state laws implementing voting restrictions that went into effect for the first time in 2016.  These new laws include roadblocks such as strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions.  Three states with new voter restrictions—Florida, North Carolina, and Alabama—have demonstrated histories of voter disenfranchisement and were monitored by the Department of Justice for illegal electioneering.  The breadth of the disenfranchisement caused by statewide voting restrictions is personified in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida.

  • Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law has been the subject of extensive litigation.  Although a federal court held that the law unconstitutionally burdened low-income individuals and minorities, the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect for the 2016 election.  According to Wisconsin’s records, as many as 300,000 people? lacked the proper ID and may have been prevented from voting.  Statewide, turnout for the 2016 Presidential election was the lowest it has been in two decades.
  • North Carolina’s law included strict voter ID requirements, eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, and barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precincts.  A federal court struck most of the law after finding it suppressed African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.”  Despite this ruling, early voting hours and locations were curtailed during the 2016 Presidential election.  African-American turnout for the early vote dropped nearly nine percent.
  •  Florida law bars anyone with a felony conviction from voting unless they travel to the state capital and request clemency—a burdensome requirement for those that cannot afford to travel to the state capital.  Approximately 1.5 million Florida residents are unable to vote because of the law, and approximately 25 percent of Florida’s African-American residents could not cast a ballot in the 2016 Presidential election. 

In addition to passing harsh laws, states like Alabama are closing driver’s license offices in rural areas with large African-American populations, while states like Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida are moving polling places out of largely minority districts.  Incidents of voter intimidation have also occurred, like the one in Sparta, Georgia, when more than 180 African-American citizens were confronted by law enforcement officers that were dispatched by the local election board.  These citizens, all American voters, were told they had to appear in person in order to prove they were a resident and could vote in upcoming elections.

This is unacceptable.  Every American deserves a voice in our elections and the freedom to cast their vote without interference.  These restrictive laws and intimidation tactics make clear that it is time to put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act and counter voter disenfranchisement.  We hope to work together with you to remedy widespread voter disenfranchisement across our country.

Sincerely,