Department of Justice Blocks Texas Voter I.D. Law
Giving lawmakers the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were not intentionally attempting to disenfranchise Latino voters, the Texas law would have in effect done such a thing. That’s enough for the Department of Justice oppose this voter i.d. law.
The Obama administration Monday said it opposes a new Texas law that requires voters to present identification at polling places, arguing that the burden falls disproportionately on Latino voters.
The Justice Department’s civil rights division in a letter said that the law fails to meet a requirement under federal law that such a change has neither the “purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color or membership in a language minority group.”
Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas (and several other states) must receive “pre-clearance” from the federal government to implement such changes to its voting laws. By opposing the law, the Justice Department prevented the law from taking effect.
“The state has not met its burden of proving that, when compared to the benchmark, the proposed requirement will not have a retrogressive effect, or that any specific features of the proposed law will prevent or mitigate that retrogression,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez.
The Justice Department said that Latino registered voters in Texas are between 46.5 and 120 percent more likely than non-Latino registered voters to lack a government-issued identification.
Texas has not explained why such a disparity exists with applicable data, according t the Justice Department, though the agency suggested that the gap could be connected to the high poverty rates of Latinos in Texas and application fees to obtain identification as well as the lack of driver’s license offices in heavily Latino counties.
Republicans in Texas argued the law was necessary to stem voter fraud, but Democrats and minority groups countered that the law is meant to disenfranchise Latino and other minority voters.
“We’re pleased the DOJ slapped down the Republican voter-suppression legislation. This unnecessary law would have trampled on the constitutional right to cast a ballot for hundreds of thousands of Texans,”Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said in a statement.
Under the Texas law, a voter would be required to present a government-issued ID (a driver’s license, military ID, U.S. passport, or concealed handgun permit) before casting his or her vote.
Six other states — Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee — have a voter ID requirement like Texas’.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in January sued the federal government to implement the law, and he plans to press ahead with that suit, according to reports.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional,” Abbott said in a statement in January. “Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections.”
“The Texas voter ID law is based off of the Indiana law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court,” added House Judiciary Committee Chairman and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (R). “This is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas. It’s time for the Obama administration to learn not to mess with Texas.”
Here is the complete Justice Department letter: