Tea Party-backed Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) on Tuesday unveiled a new push to enact a national voter ID law ahead of the 2012 elections.
His proposed Federal Elections Integrity Act would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in federal elections.
“Current federal law requires those voting in federal elections to be American citizens,” Walsh said in a press release. "This long overdue bill simply enforces that requirement and will be a huge step towards combating voter fraud in this country."
Walsh said voter fraud was a "real issue" in the country, using an oft-repeated Republican refrain about the supposed prevalence of the problem.
"We have seen plenty of examples of people lying about who they are, and convicted felons, dead people, and illegal immigrants voting. This bill is just common sense," he added. "The American people understand that it makes no sense that a photo ID is required to get a library card or board an airplane, but not required to do something as sacred as voting."
While Republican-led hysteria about alleged efforts to sway elections through illegal voting efforts has remained at the forefront of political debate -- fueled by misleading documentaries and controversial voter purge efforts in Florida -- voting rights activists maintain that the trepidation is unfounded.
According to a 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, many of the examples Republicans have sought to highlight in their advocating for voter ID laws are often over-hyped and easily sensationalized, while actual instances are "more rare than death by lightning."
Opponents of voter ID laws have meanwhile argued that potentially disenfranchising minorities and the elderly in order to rectify a voter fraud problem that recorded statistics suggest is virtually non-existant is unjust.
For more on how proponents of efforts to combat alleged voter fraud explain their view, check out the Daily Show's recent segment on the Florida voter purge here.
Below, other controversial voting laws around the country:
Tensions run high in Florida, a critical battleground state that passed an election law last year with several contested provisions. One bans a decade-long practice of early voting on Sundays before the election -- a window when as many as 30 percent of black voters have previously cast ballots after attending church in a "souls to the polls" movement. Republican lawmakers claim the provision is meant to reduce election fraud, but some black Democrats say the calculation is more sinister. "It's my feeling it was done deliberately, a premeditated design, to suppress the vote of African-Americans in this country because it's playing out all over the nation in every state. It was intentional," Florida Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) said.
The Justice Department dealt a blow to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls, arguing that it discriminated along racial lines. Haley's administration fired back with a lawsuit that is expected to be decided in September. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said earlier this year that Republicans hope to tip the outcome of the presidential election by lowering voter turnout by 1 percent in each of nine states that have passed voter ID laws, the West Ashley Patch reports. "I know nothing has changed yet," he said. "But I just do not trust the judiciary that we're operating under."
Under Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, voters must show a photo ID issued by the state or federal government. The state-issued IDs are free, but getting one requires a birth certificate, which costs $10 in Pennsylvania. Not everyone is having an easy time navigating the new system. Earlier this month, Viviette Applewhite, 93, filed a lawsuit with the ACLU and NAACP challenging the law. Applewhite, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, does not have a driver's license, and the state cannot find her birth certificate. She is afraid that this year will be the first since 1960 that she will be unable to vote. Applewhite's dilemma is not uncommon. Some 700,000 Pennsylvanians lack photo ID and half of them are seniors. According to the Brennan Center, 25 percent of voting-age black citizens have no government-issued photo ID, compared to 8 percent of white citizens.
The Kansas House voted earlier this year to move up the date a proof of citizenship law goes into effect to June 15, 2012, so it will limit who can vote in the presidential election. HuffPost's John Celock reports: Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka) said the entire idea of proof of citizenship to vote would fail in court due to it being discriminatory against married women who change their names. Mah said that women who change their name need to provide proof of marriage and citizenship and an affidavit regarding the name change. Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) took issue with Mah's claims of court challenges. "I get frustrated that everyone who does not like policy says we'll end up in court," he said. Only 48 percent of voting-age women with access to their birth certificates have a birth certificate with a current legal name, which means that as many as 32 million American women do not have proof of citizenship with their current legal name, according to the Brennan Center. The bill to change the start date eventually failed, but will still go into effect next year.
Last year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a voter ID bill into law, calling it a "common sense reform" that would "go a long way to protecting the integrity of elections in Wisconsin." As Walker's June 5 recall election approached, two judges suspended it on the basis that it is unconstitutional. Still, poll workers reportedly asked some voters to show photo ID during Wisconsin's April 2 primary, and one woman said that she and her 87-year-old mother were turned away at the polls because they lacked current photo IDs -- even though they were registered to vote. "We were listed on their friggin' poll list and yet we had our names highlighted," the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.