Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that Attorney General Eric Holder stated an "unwillingness to enforce laws to prevent voter fraud" during a December 13 speech on voting rights. In fact, Holder said in his speech that voter fraud "will not be tolerated by this Justice Department," but new state restrictions on voting will receive a "thorough -- and fair" review by the department.
Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Holder Said DOJ Wouldn't Enforce Voter Fraud Laws
J. Christian Adams Falsely Claims Holder Announced DOJ Would Oppose "Electoral Integrity Measure[s]." In a December 13 post to his PJ Media blog, Adams wrote:
On Tuesday night, I spoke in Austin, Texas, at a rally organized by True the Vote. It took place on the grounds of the LBJ library on the campus of the University of Texas. The rally was in response to Eric Holder's announcement at the same place two hours later of a concerted Justice Department effort to oppose virtually every electoral integrity measure promoted by Constitutional conservatives and Republicans.
Holder's announcement will have profound partisan results in the 2012 election because of his professed unwillingness to enforce laws to prevent voter fraud. Indeed, tonight he made clear his opposition to these laws, such as voter ID and even the requirement to register to vote in advance of an election.
Holder announced broad opposition to voter identification requirements and a ramped up effort to enforce voting registration laws in welfare agencies. [PJ Media, 12/13/11, emphasis added]
PJ Media's Bryan Preston: Holder "Openly Rejected Election Integrity." In a December 13 blog post, Preston wrote, "During a speech in Austin today, Attorney General Eric Holder openly rejected election integrity and downplayed the possibility of election fraud," then posted several paragraphs of Adams' post. [PJ Media, 12/13/11]
Holder Actually Said Voter Fraud Won't Be "Tolerated," Did Not Say DOJ Would Oppose New Laws
Holder: Voter Fraud Is Rare But "Will Not Be Tolerated By This Justice Department." In his speech, Holder said:
Despite these benefits, there will always be those who say that easing registration hurdles will only lead to voter fraud. Let me be clear: voter fraud is not acceptable -- and will not be tolerated by this Justice Department. But as I learned early in my career -- as a prosecutor in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, where I actually investigated and prosecuted voting-fraud cases -- making voter registration easier is simply not likely, by itself, to make our elections more susceptible to fraud. Indeed, those on all sides of this debate have acknowledged that in-person voting fraud is uncommon. We must be honest about this. And we must recognize that our ability to ensure the strength and integrity of our election systems -- and to advance the reforms necessary to achieve this -- depends on whether the American people are informed, engaged, and willing to demand commonsense solutions that make voting more accessible. Politicians may not readily alter the very systems under which they were elected. Only we, the people, can bring about meaningful change. [Holder speech, 12/13/11, via justice.gov, emphasis added]
Holder: DOJ Will Conduct "Thorough -- And Fair" Review Of Voting Measures Under Voting Rights Act. From Holder's speech:
Since January, more than a dozen states have advanced new voting measures. Some of these new laws are currently under review by the Justice Department, based on our obligations under the Voting Rights Act. Texas and South Carolina, for example, have enacted laws establishing new photo identification requirements that we're reviewing. We're also examining a number of changes that Florida has made to its electoral process, including changes to the procedures governing third-party voter registration organizations, as well as changes to early voting procedures, including the number of days in the early voting period.
Although I cannot go into detail about the ongoing review of these and other state-law changes, I can assure you that it will be thorough -- and fair. We will examine the facts, and we will apply the law. If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can't meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. [Holder speech, 12/13/11, via justice.gov, emphasis added]
Holder Is Right: Instances Of Voter Fraud Are Rare
Brennan Center For Justice: Restrictive Voting Laws Could Make It "Significantly Harder" For Millions To Cast Votes
Brennan Center For Justice Estimates "More Than 5 Million Voters Could Be Affected By The New Laws." The Brennan Center for Justice issued a report estimating that newly enacted restrictions on voting "could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." From the Brennan Center for Justice:
1. 3.2 million voters affected by new photo ID laws. New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the 2012 election in five states (Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin), which have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID. Rhode Island voters are excluded from this count, because Rhode Island's new law's requirements are significantly less onerous than those in the other states.
2. 240,000 additional citizens and potential voters affected by new proof of citizenship laws. New proof of citizenship laws will be in effect in three states (Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee), two of which will also have new photo ID laws. Assuming conservatively that those without proof of citizenship overlap substantially with those without state-issued photo ID, we excluded those two states. The citizen voting age population in the remaining state (Alabama) is 3.43 million; 240,000 (7 percent) of those potential voters do not have documentary proof of citizenship.
3. 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws. Two states (Florida and Texas) passed laws restricting voter registration drives, causing all or most of those drives to stop. In 2008, 2.13 million voters registered in Florida and, very conservatively, at least 8.24 percent or 176,000 of them did so through drives. At least 501,000 voters registered in Texas, and at least 5.13 percent or 26,000 of them did so via drives.
4. 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed. Maine abolished Election Day registration. In 2008, 60,000 Maine citizens registered and voted on Election Day.
5. One to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting. The early voting period was cut by half or more in three states (Florida, Georgia and Ohio). In 2008, nearly 8 million Americans voted early in these states. An estimated 1 to 2 million voted on days eliminated by these new laws.
6. At least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012. Two states (Florida and Iowa) made it substantially more difficult or impossible for people with past felony convictions to get their voting rights restored. Up to one million people in Florida could have benefited from the prior practice; based on the rates of restoration in Florida under the prior policy, 100,000 citizens likely would have gotten their rights restored by 2012. Other voting restrictions passed this year that are not included in this estimate. [Voting Law Changes In 2012, Brennan Center for Justice, October 2011; Brennan Center for Justice, 10/3/11]