Labor Sec. Tom Perez: In-Person Voter Fraud Is a Phantom Problem

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U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez talks with computer science students Wednesday morning, Aug. 20, 2014, during a trip to the Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in Memphis, Tenn. Perez toured the facility, meeting students before speaking with faculty to celebrate the center's fifth anniversary. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Jim Weber)Jim Weber / AP

Labor Secretary Tom Perez, speaking at the National Press Club Monday, called in-person voter fraud a phantom problem, but declined to talk about possibly being the nation's next attorney general.

“As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I do not believe the enduring voting issue … is in-person voter fraud. I don’t believe that because I did these cases when I was over there and that is a phantom problem,” said Perez.

Formerly the assistant attorney general over the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, Perez is now among the potential candidates to head DOJ after Attorney General Eric Holder steps down.

During the time Perez was in that job, the DOJ considered and rejected voter ID laws passed by a number of mostly Republican-controlled state legislatures following the election of President Barack Obama. The states said the laws were needed to prevent people using another person's name and identity to vote. Investigations and studies have turned up very few cases of such fraud but the claim the laws significantly reduce turnout also is uncertain.

“As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I do not believe the enduring voting issue … is in-person voter fraud," said Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Bloody Sunday is the name given to March 7, 1965, when voting rights activists were brutally clubbed, beaten and gassed as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way from Montgomery to Selma, Ala. The march is credited with helping win passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which contained anti-discrimination measures recently nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perez said he applauds Holder’s candor on voting rights and other issues that he said are Holder's legacy, even if they have made the attorney general a lightning rod. He declined, however, to name what the top priorities of DOJ should be.

“I have not studied that issue since I was at the Department of Labor and I can tell you the Department of Labor’s priorities should be putting people back to work, continuing the pace of growth and making sure we have shared prosperity,” he said.

Perez’s speech was focused on labor and what has been Democrats’ campaign theme this midterm election year – rebuilding the middle class. Perez discussed several steps to what he called a “stairway to shared prosperity.”

Among them was paid leave for workers. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide it, he said.

“Why are we making people choose between the job they need and the family they love?” Perez asked.

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