Here’s the Trib story.
The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected Texas’ application for preclearance of its voter ID law, saying the state did not prove that the bill would not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters.
“The department’s letter states that Texas did not meet its burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of showing that the law will not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and therefore the department objects to the Texas voter identification law,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman. “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5%, and potentially 120%, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack the required identification.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in a letter to Keith Ingram, the director of Texas’ elections division on Monday:
“As noted above, an applicant for an election identification certificate will have to travel to a driver’s license office. This raises three discrete issues. First, according to the most recent American Community Survey three-year estimates, 7.3 percent of Hispanic or Latino households do not have an available vehicle, as compared with only 3.8 percent of non-Hispanic white households that lack an available vehicle. Statistically significant correlations exist between the Hispanic voting-age population percentage of a county, and the percentage of occupied housing units without a vehicle.
Second, in 81 of the state’s 254 counties, there are no operational driver’s license offices. The disparity in the rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics with regard to the possession of either a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS is particularly stark in counties without driver’s license offices. According to the September 2011 data, 10.0 percent of Hispanics in counties without driver’s license offices do not have either form of identification, compared to 5.5 percent of non-Hispanics. According to the January 2012 data, that comparison is 14.6 percent of Hispanics in counties without driver’s license offices, as compared to 8.8 percent of non-Hispanics. During the legislative hearings, one senator stated that some voters in his district could have to travel up to 176 miles roundtrip in order to reach a driver’s license office. The legislature tabled amendments that would have, for example, provided reimbursement to voters who live below the poverty line for travel expenses incurred in applying for the requisite identification.”
The bill, Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, was one of Gov. Rick Perry’s “emergency items” during the 82nd Legislature and requires voters to present a state-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, military ID, U.S. passport or concealed handgun license before casting a ballot.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who expected the federal government’s rejection, said late last week he plans to forge ahead with the lawsuit he filed last month to have the bill implemented immediately. The Justice Department has until April 9 to respond to the lawsuit.
You can see the DOJ’s letter here. The Trib also has a bunch of reactions to the decision, to which I’ll add statements from State Reps. Carol Alvarado and Lon Burnam. Texas Redistricting has a lawsuit the state is pursuing, as well as information about other intervenors in that litigation. Trail Blazers reminds us of AG Greg Abbott’s spectacularly unsuccessful effort to find voter fraud in the state, which he nonetheless continues to insist exists. Stace, EoW, BOR, and Kos have more.
I will say that it seems clear to me that Texas could have gotten this law precleared if it had made an effort to provide acceptable IDs at minimal cost and burden to those who don’t have them. This would have allowed them to achieve their stated goal of improving ballot security (however ludicrous and unproven their fears are, and however misguided it is to focus on in person fraud while ignoring mail ballot fraud) while ensuring that no interested legal voters would be denied their right to vote. But of course the whole point of the voter ID legislation is to prevent people from voting, so that was never an option for them. They gambled and lost, for now. But they’re not going to quit, and if this tactic ultimately fails they’ll find something else. This is unfortunately what Republicans do these days.