What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : America's Poor : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by McConnell of Kentucky that would require government-issued photo identification in order to vote in a federal election/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 184)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by McConnell of Kentucky that would require government-issued photo identification in order to vote in a federal election/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 184     Jun 05, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win
This vote was on an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would require people who vote in federal elections to present a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.  McConnell said this is to ensure that people are not voting illegally.  The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America’s immigration system.

“The Constitution maintains that voting is a privilege reserved for U.S. citizens. Noncitizens do not have this right. Those who don’t abide by our laws are not free to influence our political process or our policies with a vote,” McConnell said. “Photo IDs are needed in this country to board a plane, to enter a Federal building, to cash a check, even to join a wholesale shopping club. If they are required for buying bulk toothpaste, they should be required to prove that somebody actually has a right to vote.”

But Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said McConnell’s amendment could also prevent those who have can legally vote from exercising their rights as citizens. 

“It will diminish the voting rights of our American citizens, particularly minorities, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. That is a historic decision. This is not another commonplace amendment; it is an amendment of great moment,” Durbin said. “The idea may sound reasonable on its face until you look closely.” 

Durbin argued that the restriction would unfairly hurt people who are already among the most disenfranchised.  Durbin said 12 percent of Americans don’t have a driver’s license.  He also cited a 2005 University of Wisconsin study showing that 50 percent of African-American and Hispanic adults in the Milwaukee area don’t have a valid driver’s license.  He also said the courts have found requiring a photo ID to vote to be unconstitutional in the past; a similar Georgia state law was overturned by an appellate court.

McConnell said that a majority of Americans support such a law, and added that his amendment would also establish a grant program to help people obtain a driver’s license at no cost to them.

Barack Obama, D-Ill., said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and called McConnell’s amendment a ruse.  He said the funding for the amendment’s grant program is not assured, and that money isn’t the only reason some people might find it difficult to obtain a driver’s license.  “How easy would it be for an 85-year-old grandmother to find her birth certificate? Who would drive the destitute all the way to the nearest Federal building to get one of these cards?” Obama asked.

The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 41-52.  Though more people voted yes than no, in this instance the threshold for passing the amendment was 60 votes, a significant number given that 60 votes is a three-fifths majority of the Senate’s membersip.  Because fewer than 60 senators voted yes, the amendment failed.  Those Democrats present and voting were unanimous in opposing the amendment.  Republicans present and voting by and large voted for it, though five voted against it. Thus, the bill went forward without language that would have required a government-issued photo ID card in order to cast a ballot in a federal election.
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