With the election between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney so close in various parts of the U.S., Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a Darien League of Women Voters luncheon at Country Club of Darien Tuesday afternoon that new, tighter voter registration laws in some of those states may "tear [America's] political fabric asunder."
Malloy is referring to states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, which, since 2008, have implemented laws restricting the forms of identification that residents could present as proof that they're eligible to vote. While supporters of the laws said they were passed mainly to prevent voter fraud, Gov. Malloy and other Democrats believe the laws were passed to prevent certain groups, such as minorities, from voting in the upcoming election.
"What's happened in America is that on too many issues... we make really stupid short-term decisions for political purposes that have long-term implications that are very, very destructive," Malloy said.
The governor pointed out that the laws could be detrimental to urban communities where most residents use public transportation on a daily basis, thus making it unnecessary to obtain driver's licenses. He also questioned how college students in Texas aren't permitted to use state-issued IDs to register on their campuses, but residents are allowed to use their gun permits to register.
"Most of the 19 states and the two states that did it by executive order ...are safe one way or the other," Malloy said. "But there are a handful of states that will decide which [presidential] candidate wins—where this could very well have dramatic implications. Now, when you look at the 19 states plus the two states, you come to the conclusion that this is not about voter fraud, this is about voter denial."
Malloy stated that there is “almost no evidence of systemic voter fraud based on the identification of someone voting” and “less than four-tenths of one percent of voter fraud has been documented in any state over a long period of time.” He also provided statistics showing that between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, the number of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters as well as voters between the age of 18 and 24 increased and he praised groups, such as the League of Women Voters, for encouraging higher voter turnout.
"We actually did in that election—for numerous reasons and some of those political reasons—what this league in town after town and county after county and state after state have been advocating for the entirety of the existence of the League of Women Voters and that is that more people would find a way to participate," Malloy said.
Malloy also praised Connecticut for focusing on expanding voter registration laws and doing so on a bipartisan basis.
"We are flying exactly in the opposite direction of what any other state has done over the last year and we are going to do everything in our power in the coming years to make sure it's easier to vote," he said "[Our efforts] were made a little slower perhaps by some, and some of the changes will not go into effect because we didn't get a super majority, but we did get majorities with participation from Democrats and Republicans to do what we all have the fundamental right to do: and that's to vote."
Malloy posed a challenge to the League of Women Voters to crunch the numbers once the election results are in and compare how the new laws have affected voter turnout.
"I don't want to see my democracy, my country torn apart," he said. "This has got to be important to somebody. And that job is your job. Do the hard, good work of proving that this idea is un-American."