Republican Senators Question Obama’s Call for a National Voting Commission

February 13, 2013 - 7:01 AM

boehner

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner applaud during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Image: White House webcast)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama’s call for a national commission to "improve the voting experience in America" has some Republican senators wondering if it will targets voter ID laws or empower the federal government to dictate voting procedures to states.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said voter ID laws, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, should not trouble anyone.

“I think the president has continually pushed the idea that people are being denied the right to vote. I don’t believe that’s true,” Sessions told CNSNews.com. “If they can show specific examples of that, people ought to be prosecuted. I think that’s an exaggeration."

In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Obama said: “We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental right of a democracy -- the right to vote. When any American, no matter where they live or what their party, are denied that right because they can’t afford to wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.”

Obama said he plans to appoint a "nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America." The process "definitely needs improvement,” he added. “I’m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign -- to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.”

Long lines?

“There may have been long lines in some places, but for most places in the country, I think people get to vote in a reasonable time,” Sen. Sessions told CNSNews. “It’s usually the local officials who maybe didn’t put enough poll workers at the machines in a given spot, and they can adjust that. It wouldn’t bother me that some group of people looked at the problem. But to have the federal government dictate how to handle elections is contrary to our history.”

The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, already has taken legal action against several states that enacted voter ID laws, including Alabama and Texas. Democrats say such legislation suppresses the vote.

“When the president talks about voting, he is focused on partisan advantage for the Democratic Party,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told CNSNews.com. “His Justice Department tragically has been the most partisan Justice Department this country has seen. They have repeatedly fought common sense voter integrity policies like voter ID that serve, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said, to protect and ensure the integrity of our democratic system.

“The president, often for partisan advantage, claims that when he is fighting voter ID policies, he’s protecting the rights of minorities and yet, if you look at the locations where voter ID policies have been put in place, typically you’ve seen minority turnout increase rather than decrease after voter ID is put in place,” Cruz continued. “I would suggest the reason is, the people who are most frequently targeted by unscrupulous political operatives seeking to steal votes are unfortunately minorities. They prey on minority communities and I would suggest if you want to protect the right to vote of every American, including every minority, then common-sense proposals that ensure the integrity of the democratic system are upholding that value."

Cruz said he wishes the president "was willing to work with men and women across the aisle to solve the very serious problems we have in this country.”

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) said the Obama proposal was about more than voter ID laws.

“We are the world’s greatest democracy...We want everybody to vote,” Fattah told CNSNews.com.

“It’s about much more than voter ID laws,” Fattah added. “You’ve got to imagine that if we want to present ourselves to the world as the way that countries should look to govern themselves -- as the way people have the right to vote -- we need to have a process in terms of voting that doesn’t confuse people, that’s accountable, that’s transparent, and we need to make sure that every vote counts.”