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U.S. Representative Maxine Waters Votes Against Republican Effort to Create a Modern Day Poll Tax

July 15, 2009
Press Release

United States Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) voted against H.R. 4844, the Republican sponsored Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 because it would create a modern day poll tax and was reminiscent of the tactics used in the past to deny minorities access to the voting booth.  Rep. Waters also opposed this legislation because it would mandate that the states force American citizens to purchase voter identification cards, and, if they do not buy one of the new cards, they will not be allowed to vote.

"The right to vote should not be tied to whether or not American citizens can afford to pay for and carry this one specific piece of identification when a driver's license, a state ID card, or another currently available form of identification is proven to be sufficient in states that require identification," said Rep. Waters.  "The Republicans have no idea how much this scheme will cost.  Voters might be stuck paying whatever it costs their state to collect the data, set up offices, buy computers, manufacture the cards, and mail them to voters.  All of those costs would be passed on to the voters and could make these cards very, very expensive."

Rep. Waters, who in 2000 chaired the Democratic Caucus' Special Committee on Election Reform added, "After the massive voter disenfranchisement in Florida in 2000, I held hearings and took a good, hard look at real voting irregularities across the nation.  We found dozens of problems that prevented legally registered voters from casting a ballot.  But this legislation makes no attempt to solve those problems.  Instead, it takes a huge step backwards to the days of literacy tests and poll taxes and denies American citizens the right to vote if they cannot afford to pay for a state mandated ID card." 

According to national estimates, H.R. 4844 is going to cost states $128 million in 2006 and $78 million to implement between 2007 and 2011.  In addition to being a bill that is impossible to fund, the courts have consistently struck down similar legislation at the state level.  Last week, a Missouri court in Weinschenk v. Missouri found that the state's law, which required  a government-issued photo ID to exercise voting rights, violated the state constitution, and prior to that ruling, a Georgia federal court in Common Cause v. Billups struck down a similar state law for the third time because it violated the U.S. Constitution.  The judge in the Missouri case stated that voting is a "right and not a license" and that the photo ID requirement would be a particular burden on women, the poor, the undereducated, and the elderly.