08/07/2012 03:18 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2012

Voter ID Laws: Republican Attorney Compares 'Myths' To Salem Witch Trials

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo
Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

CHICAGO -- A Republican election attorney who accused the Department of Justice of being biased against whites, on Tuesday compared "myths" surrounding voter identification laws to the Salem witch trials.

J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department civil rights attorney speaking on behalf of the Republican National Lawyers Association, said during a voter ID forum at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago that he believes there are too many "myths" surrounding voter ID laws. Adams characterized the opponents as hysterical.

“I would venture to say that there has not been so much unwarranted hysteria since 1692 when Goodwife Proctor was accused of being a witch in Salem, Massachusetts," Adams said. "I mean that seriously."

Adams went on to compare voter fraud cases to those of murder, noting that legislators would not have outlawed murder if only nine cases had existed, alluding to the number of voter ID cases cited by opponents. He also called into question a 2011 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, saying the group is not credible in its findings, since the sample size of people who were not registered to vote was smaller than 1,000. He preferred other academic studies with better methodology and conclusions similar to his own.

Adams also cited that he found more voter fraud than incidents of people being struck by lightening. He cited cases from West Virginia, including the arrest of a county sheriff for voter fraud.

“According to the National Weather Service the last person to be struck by lightening in West Virginia was in 2005," he said. "Since 2005, a county sheriff in West Virginia pled guilty of voter fraud and there is rampant voter fraud.”

While at the Justice Department, Adams brought a voter fraud case against the New Black Panther Party, which was later dropped. After leaving the department, Adams accused it of dropping the case due to a bias against whites.

Adams was joined on the panel by another voter ID law supporter -- Texas Rep. Patricia Harless (R) -- and two opponents, Eric Marshall from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and Nebraska Sen. Brenda Council (D-Omaha). Harless, the sponsor of the Texas voter ID law now blocked by the Justice Department, addressed the history of the issue in her state.

Saying the law had "wide support" in Texas, Harless defended the types of ID cards that Texas legislators placed on the accepted list, including driver's licenses and concealed carry licenses.

“In Texas, we all carry our guns proudly," she said.

Figures in a recent trial over the voter ID law indicated 213 dead Texans voted in person during the May 2012 primary, said Harless. She said she could not prove how the numbers were determined, noting that it came out in testimony.

Marshall said that a similar claim in South Carolina was debunked when it was determined that many of the dead voted absentee then died, and in some cases, the names were mismarked by election officials. He believes that voter ID supporters keep "moving the goal post" when challenged over the numbers of voter fraud cases, he said. During the panel, Adams used the same claim on Marshall and voter ID opponents.

Adams also told attendees that the voter ID law issue is not a Republican-led movement or an ALEC conspiracy, noting that Democrats have supported the law in Rhode Island and Kansas. “Ask the Democratic legislators from [Rhode Island] who sponsored voter ID in Rhode Island," Adams said. "Ask the majority of Kansas Democrats who supported voter ID and citizenship legislation in Kansas this past session."



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