Voting Rights Hearing Witnesses Rokita and Cuccinelli Have Long Histories Backing Anti-Voter, Anti-Immigrant Policies
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would reinforce essential voter protections at a time when voting rights are under assault across the nation. Two of the witnesses slated to testify are Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and former Trump Homeland Security leader Ken Cuccinelli — both of whom have demonstrated histories of supporting discriminatory and anti-democratic policies, vilifying immigrants and voters and, in Rokita’s case, even backing attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election.
“At today’s hearing, senators should take Todd Rokita’s and Ken Cuccinelli’s records as longtime enemies of voters and immigrants at face value when listening to their testimony,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “Politicians who have proven time and again that they are enemies of our nation’s most fundamental rights and values should not be seen as authorities on what protections voters need. With the right to vote under assault in statehouses across the country, it is crucial that Congress quickly pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act so Americans can exercise their freedom to vote without racially-motivated hoops to jump through.”
Attorney General Rokita has long been at the forefront of the fight against voting rights in his state, helping pen “the nation’s first voter ID law.” He has been a central voice spreading Trump’s Big Lie since the day of the insurrection itself, tweeting in the days following January 6 that he will “always be for our president.”
Ken Cuccinelli spent his time in the Trump administration vilifying immigrants and executing xenophobic policy. In 2019, when he was serving as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), he made a comment amending the popular American adage that adorns the plaque on the Statue of Liberty to say, “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
- In 2005, then-Secretary of State Rokita helped write and institute Indiana’s voter ID law, “the nation’s first photo voter ID law,” which required voters to present government-issued identification when voting in order to prevent “voter impersonation” — despite the state never previously presenting a case of such impersonation
- When the Indiana law reached the Supreme Court, Justice Souter warned that the law threatened to impose voting restrictions on tens of thousands of Indiana residents
- After it was upheld by the Supreme Court, the restrictive voter ID law Rokita spearheaded inspired a flurry of other voter suppression legislation in states including Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina in the years immediately following — some of which were later struck down on the grounds that they hurt Native, low-income, and other disparately impacted communities
- A 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office found that strict photo ID Laws reduce voter turnout by 2-3 percentage points, translating to tens of thousands of votes lost in a single state
- Rokita has also been under fire throughout his career for making racist, patronizing comments about Black voters and running widely-condemned ads that vilified those protesting police violence.
- In his time running USCIS, Cuccinelli pushed through a range of policies making it more difficult for people to legally immigrate to the United States, including a rule implementing an effective “wealth test” for legal immigrants seeking green cards
- Cuccinelli advocated for removing the constitutional right to birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants
- On his way out of office, Cuccinelli cut deals with the ICE union and a number of state attorneys general in an effort to prevent the Biden administration from making immigration policy changes
- In a CNN interview discussing a Trump administration rule intended to deny a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are lower-income or who have used social services, Cuccinelli said that Emily Lazarus’ famous poem on the Statue of Liberty was “referring back to people coming from Europe” in an attempt to explain his glib rephrasing of the poem to say, “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
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