Washington - Black Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta is joining several other Democrats arguing that the rise of voter--identification laws across many states is a coordinated attempt by Republicans to suppress minority and elderly votes.
Lewis, a civil-rights activist in the 1960s said, "We must fight back. We must speak up and speak out. We must never, ever go back. We will not stand idly by while millions of Americans are denied their right to participate in the democratic process."
Lewis spoke along with other Democrats and warned that the state laws must be rejected.
"These new policies are a clear attempt to prevent certain pre-determined segments of the population from exercising their right to vote," said Rep. Marcia Fudge. "To be frank, Mr. Speaker, these efforts have an all-too familiar stench of the Jim Crow era."
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said the voter-ID laws are a Republican response to President Obama's election.
"Is this a serious voter problem? No," he said. "Unfortunately, it is a cynical and malicious Republican attempt to suppress minority and elderly voters who turned out in historical numbers for the '08 elections."
Others said the laws are akin to a poll tax, something used more than 100 years ago in an effort to discourage minority voters. The lawmakers said the requirement of an official government identification is a cost that many cannot afford, and which interferes with their right to vote.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) argued the laws are an "organized effort to turn back the clocks back to the period prior to the 1965 voting rights act."
Republicans did not mount a rhetorical defense of voter ID laws on the floor, although some have supported these laws as a way of ensuring that only legal U.S. citizens vote at the polls.