Texas’ Voter ID Law Blocked by Federal Judicial Panel
August 30, 2012
One of the social issues opposed by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce during the 2011 Legislative Session, Voter ID, has been blocked by a federal judicial panel in Washington. The Texas law, dubbed “the most stringent in the nation” would impose a heavier burden on voters than similar laws in Indiana, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, and one in Georgia, which the Justice Department allowed to take effect without objection. The judicial panel noted that the new restrictions would place an unfair burden on Latinos, racial minorities and the poor. See today’s article from the San Antonio Express News below:
WASHINGTON — A federal judicial panel on Thursday blocked the Texas voter ID law, saying the new restrictions would place an unfair burden on Latinos, racial minorities and the poor.
The ruling by the federal panel is the second legal blow to Texas in as many days. Other federal judges threw out a Texas redistricting plan earlier this week because it discriminates against minorities.
In blocking the Texas voter ID law, the judges called it “the most stringent in the country.”
“It imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor and racial minorities in Texas,” the judges said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas lawmakers argued the new voter ID rules passed by the Republican Legislature were needed to protect the integrity of elections in the state from fraud and impersonation.
Abbott said Thursday the state would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As in their opposition of redistricting lines, Democrats and minority rights groups say the voter ID law is designed to suppress turnout of the elderly, students, blacks and Latinos because they tend to vote for Democrats.
The D.C. court, hearing a week-long trial in July, voiced skepticism about the law’s intent and whether it would discriminate against minorities.
State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, testified that some of his constituents in a sweeping border district between San Antonio and El Paso would have to drive up to 120 miles to receive Department of Public Safety-issued driver’s license or identification card.
Lawyers for the state argued that the voter ID laws were similar to those that were passed and implemented in Indiana and Georgia.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld Voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box,” Abbott repeated in a statement released Thursday in response to the judges’ ruling. “Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana — and were upheld by the Supreme Court.”
Justice Department lawyer Matthew Colangelo argued that the bill was passed with intent to discriminate, and that voters would be disenfranchised “the day it goes into effect.”
The bill was enacted against a backdrop of huge Hispanic growth in the state that gave Texas four new congressional seats, Colangelo said.
Texas grew by 4 million over the past decade, according to the 2010 U.S. census. Roughly 90 percent of the growth was attributed to minorities, and Latinos alone accounted for 65 percent of the population growth.
The state Legislature passed the voter ID law in 2011 over objections from Latino groups who sided with the Justice Department in the lawsuit brought by the state when Justice denied preclearance of the new Texas voting rules.
Texas is one of 16 mostly Southern states with a history of discrimination that must have changes to voting procedures or elections laws approved by the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
“Today, the court affirmed that Texas’ photo identification law violates the Voting Rights Act, this law posed a direct threat to the right of every Texan to vote. It would have muffled the voice of those that need government’s ear the most — Latinos, African Americans, the poor, and the elderly,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D- San Antonil, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus “The Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal. Citizens have the responsibility to vote and participate in our democracy, but restrictive voting laws like Texas’ deny them that opportunity. Today is a victory for all Texans and the Voting Rights Act.”