The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted Friday to condemn all state voter identification laws as racially discriminatory.

The commission passed the motion by a 4-2 vote, with one recusal, at its August meeting in Washington. The statement characterizes all state voter ID laws as "thinly veiled efforts to deny racial minorities access to the ballot box."

Commissioner Gail Heriot objected to the "tone" of the letter and voted against it, argued that the commission shouldn't make blanket judgments and such laws should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego whose areas of expertise include civil rights, said she does not believe it is "the commission's job to be creating that kind of distrust" and that such rhetoric will contribute to "needlessly causing people to believe that someone's out to get them." She argued that "voter fraud is real, whether it is extensive, I'm not in a position to judge" and that both Republican and Democratic states have successfully adopted similar measures that have been upheld as constitutional in the courts.

The letter was written in response to the recent judgment by a federal appeals court striking down a North Carolina law that required residents to carry identification when voting. The state asked the Supreme Court earlier this week for a stay on the decision, arguing "there is no reason to believe that [the law] will have any detrimental effect on voters, minority or otherwise."

Heriot questioned whether the commission should assume that many people, both citizens and elected officials, are supporting such efforts because of racial prejudice.

"I can't speak to the motives of every single legislator, but what I can say is that when you have a unanimous legislature with legislators from both parties voting in favor of laws like this, it's a real stretch that somewhere in the minds of these legislators must be the desire to deny racial minorities the vote," said Heriot, describing the language of the letter as "disrespectful."

Martin Castro, the president of a consulting firm is chairman of the commission, described the laws as violations of constitutional rights by comparing them to previous state-led efforts to segregate public schools and prevent legalization of same-sex marriage. Before calling the motion to a vote, Castro said in response to Heriot that even his fellow Democrats are not immune to supporting legislation that he believes is discriminatory.

"As a Democrat, I can say unfortunately, Democrats are not immune to bigotry and bias. So the fact that they voted for something doesn't necessarily immunize it," he said.

The Commission on Civil Rights is an independent bipartisan body designed to help inform and enforce federal policy. It is composed of eight commissioners, four of whom are appointed by the president and the other appointed by Congress. Castro was appointed by President Obama, while Heriot, an independent, was selected by Congress.