Two groups representing minority voters and officeholders sued to block the state’s new Voter ID law, which will be used for the first time in a statewide Texas election this November — barring intervention by a court.
The new law requires voters to show an approved photo identification card when they vote. Its requirements “have a discriminatory effect … and were enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose,” according to the lawsuit filed against the state by the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Texas House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
In their suit, the groups said the new law “disproportionately prevent Latino and African-American citizens in Texas from voting in person and, in the totality of the circumstances, deny Latino and African American citizens an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and were enacted for that purpose.”
The suit was filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, where two similar cases are set for hearings later this month: one filed in June by a group including U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and another by the U.S. Department of Justice, filed in August. Dallas County joined the Veasey lawsuit last month.
A copy of the suit is here, a scorecard of who’s suing for what is here, and a press statement from MALC is beneath the fold. I presume all these lawsuits will eventually be joined – a motion to do exactly that has already been filed – but the more resources going into fighting this terrible law, the better. Now we just need someone to file for a TRO to keep it from being enforced before the litigation concludes. I’m hoping that happens before November 5.
Today, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) of the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas State Conference of the NAACP filed suit in federal court to block Texas’ voter photo ID requirement under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Unfortunately, we continue to find ourselves in federal court defending this most basic right against Texas’ leadership,” said Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of MALC. “Multiple courts have ruled that Texas has expressed a pattern of discrimination towards its growing minority demographic – from its cumbersome voter identification requirements to its penchant for drawing intentionally discriminatory legislative maps – and I expect that the courts will once again side with Texas voters over hyper-partisan lawmakers.
Chairman Martinez Fischer added: “As our state’s top legal official, Attorney General Abbott should be working with minority communities – not against us – to ensure that the voting process is straightforward and non-partisan. And instead of vying for our vote next year as he looks to a higher office, he’s trying to do everything in his power to prevent minorities from voting in the first place.”
Last year, the D.C. federal district court blocked Texas’ voter photo ID law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, stating, “The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that – at least to our knowledge – is the most stringent in the country. That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty (Opinion of the Court, Texas v. Holder, p. 55).” However, within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Shelby case, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state election officials announced that they would immediately implement Texas’ photo identification requirement.
“As we all know, Texas has a voter identification law that has already been ruled to be discriminatory by a bipartisan 3 judge panel in Washington D.C.,” stated Gary Bledsoe, President of the NAACP Texas State Conference. “It is only by a technicality that the law may now be implemented. This law is designed and intended not to counteract nearly non-existent voter fraud, but instead to disenfranchise minority voters in order to continue anti-minority voter dominance by drastically reducing the number of minority votes cast in each election.”
The attorneys representing the MALC and the Texas NAACP in the case are the Law Offices of Jose Garza, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the national office of the NAACP, Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, Law Office of Gary L. Bledsoe & Associates, Dechert LLP and the Law Offices of William Bonilla.
In a move welcomed by both MALC and the NAACP, the U.S. Department of Justice on Aug. 22 filed a complaint against the State of Texas over the voter photo identification law. Visit the following link to view their filings, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-ag-952.html, which will become key exhibits in the lawsuit filed today.