WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democrats asked secretaries of state in all 50 states to oppose new voter identification laws because they threaten the right to vote for many Americans.
"Today we are witnessing a concerted effort by Republican lawmakers across several states to place a new obstacle in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote," said Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said in a news conference Thursday.
The Democrats made the plea in a letter in which they ask the secretaries of state to put aside partisan considerations and be vigilant against fraud and protect access to the polls for all citizens. The letter had 196 House supporters Thursday, including delegates to U.S. territories.
Hoyer said states are trying to make it harder to vote through recently passed laws that require specific types of photo identification to cast ballots, reductions in the number of early voting days and tougher laws on collecting registrations.
Several states passed such laws over the past year and other states have considered them, saying they are targeting voter fraud. Many experts say there have been few instances of people pretending to be someone else at the polls in order to vote, which is the type of fraud photo ID laws target.
Many, though not all, of the recently passed laws have been sponsored and supported by Republicans. Democrats, whose constituencies include large numbers of minorities, students and some elderly, have decried the laws as throwbacks to the Jim Crow era.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Congressional Black Caucus chairman, says he is ashamed of the new state laws implemented years after his own grandfather, a Texas farmer and preacher, faced poll taxes and literacy tests that asked impossible to answer questions in order to vote. He said there is no record his grandfather ever voted in his 103 years.