- Rep. Trent Franks: Justice Department isn't doing enough to ensure military voters' rights
- Franks says DoJ is "seeking headlines in opposing voter ID laws"
- DoJ official disputes claims, cites suits against 4 states over MOVE Act noncompliance
- DoJ launched investigation into Pennsylvania's new voter ID law
Congressional Republicans told a top Justice official Thursday his department is wrong to fight state voter ID laws and that the government needs to do more to ensure people serving abroad in the military are able to vote.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said the Justice Department "is seeking headlines opposing voter ID laws that an overwhelming majority of Americans support."
Franks told Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, that Justice officials aren't doing enough to protect the voting rights of the military under the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009. The congressman said more must be done to make sure members of the military can register to vote and that they receive absentee ballots at least 45 days before federal elections.
Perez disagreed on both issues during testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee. He said his department tries to block voter ID laws that threaten to disenfranchise minority voters. As for military voters, he said, "This year we sued four states -- Alabama, California, Wisconsin and Georgia -- for noncompliance with the MOVE Act during their primary and runoff elections."
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told Perez the Justice Department is wrongly fighting voter ID laws.
"We are seeing voter registration fraud and we're seeing voter fraud," King said.
Justice's most recent move against a state voter ID law took place Monday. The department informed Pennsylvania's top election official it has launched a formal investigation into whether the state law requiring photo ID discriminates against minority voters and set a 30-day deadline for the state to provide documents.
The investigation of Pennsylvania's law is the first involving a state outside the areas covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to safeguard minorities in states with a history of discriminatory voting practices. Pennyslvania's law is currently being challenged by plaintiffs in state court.
The Justice Department has filed suit against South Carolina and Texas over voter ID laws.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, said that in the Pennsylvania case, officials have admitted they have no investigations or prosecutions concerning in-person voter fraud. Nadler played a June video during the hearing in which Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican, says the voter ID law will "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
"I don't think it goes too far to demand that the Civil Rights Division give close and careful scrutiny to any voting changes likely to or intended to disenfranchise voters," Nadler said. "There is clearly a national strategy to disenfranchise voters for partisan political purposes and it is the most widespread and aggressive such campaign since the Jim Crow era."
Perez noted that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served during under President George W. Bush, said that voter ID laws can sometimes represent a burden to voters.
Perez and other officials have said minority voters and the elderly often are less likely to have a government issued ID, such as a driver's license.