Senator West applauds DOJ ruling denying Texas' Voter ID law
DALLAS — Today, the Texas Secretary of State - Elections Division, received notice from the United States Department of Justice - Voting Rights Division (DOJ), that changes made to Texas elections laws that would require voters to show a state-approved form of photo identification to vote have been rejected. The notice arrives one day before a 60-day deadline the DOJ had to respond to the state's most recent submission. Senator West believes the Department of Justice ruled correctly.
"All along I, along with other opponents of SB14 — the Voter ID bill — remained steadfast in our objections to this legislation that was made one of the top priorities for the Legislature last year, despite the fact that we were facing a $20 billion budgetary crisis," said Senator West. "What the Justice Department said in its ruling was that Texas failed to prove that the changes in law would not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters. In other words, the new law would make it harder for minority citizens to vote than the existing requirements already set in state law."
Under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of 15 states — many in the South — that must submit changes to voting laws to the Justice Department for pre-clearance due to their past histories of voter discrimination. Although SB14 was passed by the Legislature during the first weeks of the 82nd Session, its provisions could not go into effect without DOJ approval. The law would have gone into effect January 1, 2012 had it gained pre-clearance. In addition, the Justice Department wrote that the state failed to make its case that laws already in place to prevent "significant in-person voter impersonation" were insufficient.
"The Justice Department raised the same objections in its rejection that we did in the Senate and the House last year," said Senator West. "We argued that poor people and minorities would be made to pay for the right to vote - a de facto poll tax. We argued that there are many places in Texas where it is more difficult to obtain a drivers license or state-issued ID card. And we argued that the Voter ID bill would do more to suppress minority voters than prevent rare proven cases of voter impersonation. Now, unless the court says otherwise, Texas voters will be able to use their voter registration cards as the primary form of identification just as they have for years."
In January, Texas Attorney General sued the federal government so that the SB14 could go into immediate effect. The case, now in a Washington D.C. District Court has not been decided. According to the Texas Secretary of State, the items required for voter identification to be able to vote in the May 12 local elections and the May 29 Primary elections will remain the same as those required to vote last year before the photo ID law was passed.
For more information, please contact Kelvin Bass at 214-467-0123.