Democrats and Republicans Spar Over State Voter ID Laws

May 26, 2021 Updated: May 27, 2021

WASHINGTON—On Monday, the House Subcommittee on Elections heard expert testimony on voter ID requirements while the Senate Rules Committee had a heated exchange about S.1., the “For the Peoples Act of 2021,” meant to federalize elections and end laws Democrats say suppress votes, like voter ID.

“Republicans want to ensure that every eligible person who wants to vote is able to cast a vote, then we make sure that every lawful ballot is counted, according to state law,” said Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Elections, Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.).

“We want to make sure that it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat. The far left has been working overtime to mischaracterize new voting laws across the United States, the left’s characterization of voter laws like those recently passed in Georgia, in other states,” continued Steil.

The Chair of the Subcommittee on Elections, Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) argued that strict voter ID requirements prevent minorities from voting and the laws being introduced by state legislatures will lead to voter suppression in minority communities.

“Voter ID laws have been shown to disproportionately burden minority voters,” he said.

Butterfield’s committee heard from a panel of experts on voter ID requirements and voter turnout in brown and black communities, where some experts argued that strict voter ID requirements, like requiring a driver’s license or other photo ID prevent minority citizens from casting their vote.

“My professional opinion is that voter ID laws disproportionately reduce minority voter turnout and increase the gap between the voices of minorities and that of white Americans in American democracy,” said Nazita Lajevardi professor, Michigan State University who studies the impact of voter identification laws on minority voter turnout.

Another witness at Monday’s hearing was Harmeet Dhillon, founding partner of the Dhillon Law Group, who told the panel that voter ID laws are favored by the majority of Americans and instill confidence in election results.

“Democrats think these voters are utterly incapable of obtaining an ID to vote. As an American, and an immigrant, and a woman of color, I find that assumption offensive. For example, Georgia voters overwhelmingly favored requiring voter ID when voting absentee that’s 74 percent of Georgia voters in favor of voter ID compared to a mere 22 percent who opposed,” Dhillon told the House panel.

A number of  2021 polls support Dhillon’s point and show that Americans strongly disagree with a ban on voter ID, as an Associated Press poll found that 72 percent of respondents support it. Likewise, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found 74 percent of Georgians support voter ID.

Getting more specific, the Rasmussen Reports found in a poll done in March that wide margins of minority voters support voter ID as well: 69 percent of African Americans and 82 percent of other nonwhite minorities.  

Meanwhile, the Senate Rules Committee had a heated debate about S.1., a sweeping election reform package meant to nationalize elections, which Democrats argue is to counter state legislatures’ attempts to suppress the votes of minorities but Republican see as an overreach by Congress in an attempt by Democrats to grab power.

The House passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2021” in March and the Senate will be voting on the Senate version of the bill in the coming weeks. Included in S.1. are dozens of measures, among them is a provision that would take away voter ID requirements.

Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had harsh words about S.1.

“One of the goals of S.1. will be a federal takeover of the election process. In my view, that would be an unmitigated disaster for our democracy. Today’s hearing will shed light on some of the destructive elements contained in this legislation,” said Blunt.

S.1. would ban state voter ID laws: states would no longer be allowed to require ID for voting and would be forced to accept signed statements from individuals claiming to verify who they say they are.

Senate Democrats see taking away voter ID requirements as making voting easier and more democratic.

The chair of the committee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Mo.) said S.1. would strengthen democracy by “making voting easier, getting big money out of politics and strengthening ethics rules.”