(CNSNews.com) - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined other Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists at a roundtable discussion Wednesday, accusing Republicans of interfering with voters' rights, especially those of minorities.
"There was a concentrated effort by conservatives to warp the legislative process, to make it more difficult for people to vote,"said Jon Greenbaum, director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Pelosi believes the right to vote is in jeopardy and argued that "there is a force conspiring against those who seek to uphold it."
"We cannot allow the birthright of America to be stolen," Pelosi said."We expect the election to be held with integrity, but we know that there are forces that seek to undermine that goal."
She outlined alleged instances of voter fraud in the elections of 2000 and 2004, calling on those present to use their elected offices to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
"For us to allow the suppression that we know takes place, to continue without putting the brightest possible spotlight on it, is an abdication of our own responsibility," Pelosi said.
The House minority leader acknowledged that President Bush addressed the NAACP for the first time earlier this year, but she renounced Republican-backed legislative proposals aimed at eliminating fraudulent voting, hinting that those bills are motivated by racism.
"The president came to the NAACP earlier this year, and he talked about how some in the African-American community did not have confidence in the Republican Party," Pelosi said.
"He extended a hand of friendship, but his own party has initiated statutes in states across the country that involve crippling registration requirements, felony penalties targeting voter registration groups, and photo identification laws that amount to modern-day poll taxes," she added.
Much of the legislation Pelosi referenced is designed to keep illegal aliens from voting and to prevent voters from casting ballots in more than one polling place.
In addition to requiring photo identification issued by a federal, state or local government agency to vote, some state legislatures want to require proof of citizenship and residency before allowing voters to register.
Other proposals would make it a felony to engage in an organized effort to commit voter fraud, such as paying homeless people to vote in precincts where they are not legally entitled to cast ballots. None of the legislative proposals currently under consideration by state legislatures requires the payment of any tax to vote.
Pelosi was joined by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-Texas), Rush Holt, (D-N.J.), and Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) as well as representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus, People for the American Way (PFAW), the Voting Rights Project and the AFL-CIO.
David Becker of PFAW said America is experiencing a "crisis of democracy."
"Ironically," said Becker, "it's easier for some Iraqis to vote than for some American citizens right now."
He accused the GOP of spearheading efforts to destroy voter registration forms completed by Democrats prior to the 2004 elections and claimed Republican officials intentionally placed fewer voting machines in precincts, not based on historically low voter turnout, but because the majority of registered voters there were African Americans.
A report published by the PFAW Foundation and distributed at the event claimed that, "the radical right wing in America has developed an array of subtle and overt methods to suppress voter registration and turnout. The methods are targeted to constituencies most likely to oppose right-wing causes and candidates: low-income families, minorities, senior citizens and citizens for whom English is a second language."
Jackson Lee added that it does not make sense that Democrats are losing elections in areas where more minorities are registering to vote.
"In the last couple of years, we've seen increase in voter registration among the minority population, but continuously lose races to, in this instance, the other party that strictly appeals to voters in other parts of the Union," Jackson Lee asserted, explaining, "I would simply say that voter suppression is alive and well."
But Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesman Josh Holmes said the notion that Republicans have conspired to defraud their fellow citizens of the right to vote is "absurd."
"The RNC strongly supports the fundamental right to vote and is steadfast in our commitment to the integrity of each ballot cast," Holmes told Cybercast News Service. "To insinuate otherwise is completely absurd."
Holmes said the Democrats' accusations are baseless and that, because their positions on the issues do not appeal to minority voters, they are trying to shift the debate away from those issues.
"The RNC actively works to register new voters from all walks of life and courts their vote with a message of opportunity and access to the American Dream," Holmes said.
"Apparently, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat Party are unwilling to make their case to minority voters based upon the issues and are once again resorting to baseless scare tactics," Holmes concluded.
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