Fundamentally flawed, unnecessary law will disenfranchise legal voters, discriminate against minorities
March 8, 2012
Mr. T. Christian Herren, Jr.
Chief, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 20530
Dear Mr. Herren:
I write regarding the Section 5 preclearance of Texas' Senate Bill 14 (82nd Legislature), and I once again respectfully request that the Department of Justice (DOJ) deny preclearance.
An article appearing in today's Houston Chronicle, "Texas' contested voter ID law could shave voter rolls," points out that "with as many as 18 percent of all registered voters across Texas apparently lacking state government-issued photo IDs to match their voter registration cards," implementation of Senate Bill 14 could have widespread negative consequences for the upcoming election and beyond. The article is attached for your review. It goes on to state that Senate Bill 14 will most heavily impact 20 of Texas' Hispanic majority counties, although 19 percent of Harris County, which constitutes the majority of my Senate district, also may lack the required photo identification.
The Chronicle article is based on the data previously submitted by the State to the DOJ on January 12, 2012. As you know, the State's letter laid out a number of reasons that the data, submitted in response to the DOJ request for further information on Senate Bill 14, fell short of fully answering the DOJ's questions. What can be discerned from the State's data, however, is highly troubling, as evidenced in today's Chronicle article.
Regardless of the excuses for why the State fails to fully answer the DOJ's question, it is clear that the State falls far short of meeting the standards set out in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. As outlined on the DOJ's own website, Section 5 "requires proof that the proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. If the jurisdiction is unable to prove the absence of such discrimination," then the proposed change cannot receive preclearance and is legally unenforceable.
Again, given the State's failure to prove that Senate Bill 14 has neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, I respectfully request that the DOJ deny preclearance of Senate Bill 14. We must not proceed recklessly with far-reaching electoral changes that could potentially disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of legal voters.