Ellis Troubled by Latest Voter ID Revelations
News reports suggest politics trumped minority voting rights concerns
(Austin)// Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today expressed deep concern over the latest revelations surrounding efforts to require photo ID in order to vote, and warned proponents of the controversial measure not to revive efforts here in Texas.
According to the
Washington Post, career attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division recommended that the federal government reject the state of Georgia's plan to require voters to provide photo identification, but were overridden by political appointees within the department. According to the report, career officials found that the Georgia Voter ID plan would weaken African Americans right to vote. Last month, a U.S. District Court judge blocked implementation of the Georgia Voter ID plan, comparing the law to the poll tax.
"I am deeply troubled by these revelations," Ellis said. "This report confirms our worst fears -- that efforts to require photo identification will significantly weaken minority voting rights, and that politics is being put before civil rights and sound law. The same concerns we raised here in Texas were echoed by career justice department officials."
During the 79th Legislative Session, Senator Ellis and Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) led efforts to defeat the voter intimidation bill, which would have made it more difficult for elderly, low-income and minority Texans from voting. Senate Bill 89 would have established some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation. The legislation, opposed by groups ranging from AARP to the NAACP and LULAC, would require that a voter show a voter registration card and picture identification or two forms on non-picture identification in order to vote. If a voter cannot meet these requirements, the voter could be allowed to vote provisionally or the voter would have to go home to retrieve the necessary ID and come back to cast a regular ballot. Voters who didn't have the required ID with them and cast provisional ballots would have to go the courthouse to show photo ID within 5 days after the election, or their vote would not count.
The attempt to weaken voting rights is now a national movement. Twenty five states have either enacted or attempted to pass legislation that would require photo ID to be eligible to vote despite no documented evidence that a voter has voted in any state using false identification.
"The Justice Department memo is just more evidence that the voter ID plan is a solution in search of a problem," said Ellis. "Supporters of this effort throw charges, anecdotal evidence and rhetoric around, but cannot point to one single case. Those of us opposed, however can cite case after case of voter intimidation and voter fraud."
Senate Bill 89 would also have created tremendous barriers for Texans to vote. Studies have shown that anywhere from 6 to 10 percent of Americans do not have a photo ID. These Americans are predominantly elderly, low-income and/or minority. In Georgia, for instance, 33 percent of seniors over 75 do not have a valid driver's license. In addition, with the passage of the
Real ID Act
in Congress, it will become more difficult to obtain an official state ID.
"We will not allow this Jim Crow plan to become the law in Texas," Ellis said. "We've come too far and fought too hard to go back."