GAO Report in Hand, Dems Step Up Voter ID Offensive

“I would also like to commend the people of Pennsylvania who, in spite of the difficulties reported, waited hours at local DMVs to complete the documents required to ensure they will be prepared vote this fall. Their commitment to exercising their right in the face of efforts to take it away is a testament to the plight of Americans who came before them, bled and died so no one would be turned away at the polls," Cleaver added.

The GAO will be issuing another report next year analyzing the laws' effects on Election 2012, including a state-by-state analysis of the cost and accessibility of documents required to register to vote and obtain voter ID, along with data on the race, gender and socioeconomic status of voters affected.

"I hope GAO follows up quickly with the review we have requested of alleged in-person voter fraud, the justification used by states in erecting these new barriers affecting millions of voters despite an almost total absence of evidence that it has impacted any election," said Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. "As we saw in our recent Judiciary Committee hearing looking at the impact of laws to restrict voting, we must work to protect one of the most fundamental rights Americans enjoy - the right to vote."

But the Democrats' 11th-hour urgency on voting laws -- highlighted not just by federal reports but efforts such as the CBC's Get Vote Ready program and CNN's documentary this coming Sunday on whether the minority vote is being suppressed -- indicates that the party is not content to make voter ID a rearview mirror issue.

"Voting is the most basic tenet of any democracy, and despite widespread public outcry state lawmakers have tried to make it harder to do," Nelson said. "The steps taken by legislatures across the country have gone too far, as evidenced once again by the study."

Former Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), a Democrat-turned-Republican, told National Journal last week that the laws have "unfairly and inaccurately" become "something of a flash point" in the African-American political community.

"Most people don’t walk into a bank with a fraudulent intent in mind. Most people walk into a bank to get money out of their own account, and they are exactly who they say they are," Davis said. "But yet banks routinely ask you for an ID, even if you’re someone who’s a regular customer. It doesn’t follow to me that because you don’t have a long, documented, verifiable trail of people trying to engage in misconduct that it’s somehow wrong to ask them for ID."

Davis said opponents of voter ID are aligning the laws to civil rights violations of the past because it's "much easier using dramatic imagery."

"I wonder what individuals who raise the civil-rights analogy thought about Eric Holder’s Department of Justice preclearing the Alabama voter-ID law and the Virginia voter-ID law," he said. "Is there some suggestion that the Holder Department of Justice has some closet sympathy for voter suppression?"

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week sent a letter to Catherine Engelbrecht, president and founder of True the Vote, asking her to provide information about the data used by the group to challenge voter registrations, the training provided to volunteers, and how True the Vote picks its battlegrounds.

"At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression. If these efforts are intentional, politically-motivated, and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights," Cummings wrote.

True the Vote called Cummings' allegations "factually bankrupt."

“It is both obvious and unfortunate that you are not familiar with all of the details of the mission or methods of True the Vote," Engelbrecht wrote back. "This letter serves as an effort to coordinate a convenient meeting time in your Washington, D.C. office, during which I can brief you and your staff about our program and help dispel any misconceptions you may have.”

Cummings said on MSNBC last night that True the Vote efforts "mainly zero in on students, African-Americans, people who would normally vote Democratic."

The congressman also alleged that the group plans to train a million poll watchers by Election Day "with the sole intent of intimidating people."

"People should not have to go to a voting place in fear and to be harassed," Cummings said, questioning whether True the Vote would concentrate its efforts on suburban or urban areas.