WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee united on Tuesday to vote against Randy Evans’ nomination to be ambassador to Luxembourg, citing his position on the State Election Board as it sought to implement a contentious voter identification law more than a decade ago.
But their effort was not enough to stall the veteran Atlanta attorney’s nomination, which advanced on a party-line vote of 11-10.
Democrats on the committee cited Georgia’s voter ID saga in 2006 as central to their dissent.
Evans was a member of the election board at the time, which was tasked with carrying out the GOP-controlled Legislature’s move to require voters show one of six forms of government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.
Evans was a proponent of the law, even after lawsuits were filed claiming the requirement posed an unnecessary burden on the right to vote and state and federal courts temporarily halted its enforcement.
“The truth is that Georgia’s new photo identification law will result in elections in which voters can have confidence,” Evans wrote in a July 2006 op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Democrats questioned Evans about his actions in the weeks before the 2006 elections, when hundreds of thousands of letters explaining the voter ID changes were sent to voters amid the legal confusion surrounding the law’s fate. Critics said the letters were designed to suppress minority turnout on election day.
“Photo ID voting practices are of pressing concern to many of us, particularly if part of the role of an ambassador is to represent the proper functioning of democracy,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he voted against Evans’ nomination Tuesday “primarily because he believes that the unfettered right to vote is an important foundational element of any democracy, and he is concerned about Mr. Evans’ previous role in Georgia.”
The Justice Department eventually approved the Georgia Legislature’s voter identification plans.
For his part, Evans told senators last month that he urged the election board to pump the brakes on the voter ID law until after that year’s elections in order to cut down on confusion.
“When you look back, you’ll see a number of pressure points about whether or not I was ‘going soft,'” Evans said. “But the fact of the matter was that at that moment the appropriate course of action was to let the state appeal, but not apply it in that election cycle until all of the dust had settled in the various judicial proceedings.”
Evans’ nomination now heads to the Senate floor, where it’s unclear when a final confirmation vote could occur. The earliest Evans’ nomination could be considered is tomorrow, but it could take weeks or even months for floor action to be scheduled.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on Tuesday defended Evans and his record, telling the committee the longtime GOP official was a “great Georgian.”