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$8 million and counting for voter ID litigation

Ka-ching.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Republicans used their majority in 2011 to muscle through the Legislature a controversial voter ID law and new redistricting maps — and Texas taxpayers haven’t stopped picking up the bill for the state to defend those measures in courts ever since.

Texas’ total legal tab to date: more than $8 million, data obtained under the state’s Public Information Act show.

And there’s no immediate end in sight to the court action, which means the price tag is only set to climb for Texas’ efforts to preserve its redrawing of political boundaries and its strict law to require photo identification to vote.

Critics of the Republican-championed plans say state leaders essentially have thrown taxpayer money down the drain to defend what they argue are policies intended to discriminate against minorities.

“That $8 million is already an enormous waste of taxpayer money in Texas,” said Gerry Hebert, a prominent election lawyer involved in the redistricting and voter ID lawsuits against the state. “As long as Texas continues to be dominated by state officials who are intent on suppressing minority voters there will be more litigation.”

[…]

According to data released, legal costs for the state’s voter ID law come in at around $3.3 million. Another roughly $4.8 million has been spent for various rounds of redistricting litigation.

The totals include almost $700,000 for travel, nearly $1 million for experts and another $1.7 million for outside lawyers in cases that have played out in courtrooms across the country.

Litigation involving voting laws or the penning of political districts is not only pricey, experts say, but extremely complex and requires a lot of statistical evidence, along high-priced testimony from professionals familiar with map drawing and the Voting Rights Act.

That means costs are likely to soar in high-profile cases like the lawsuits dealing with Texas’ two voting laws, especially if they drag on for years as they bounce through the appeals process, said Theodore Rave, an assistant professor at the University of Houston who specializes in election law.

“Texas would have a very hard time winning without that kind of expert testimony,” Rave said, commenting on the roughly $1 million expense for experts who helped make the state’s case. “We’re talking about high stakes litigation here. That’s why people are willing to spend so much money on it.”

[…]

The bulk of Texas’ $8 million in legal expenses has been used to defend against lawsuits challenging the state.

However, a significant chunk of state taxpayer dollars has stemmed from an aggressive strategy pursued by the previous state attorney general, Greg Abbott, who’s now governor.

Rather than going through the administrative process at the Justice Department, Abbott filed lawsuits seeking a federal stamp of approval from a court for the state’s maps and voter ID laws. That process cost Texas close $1.6 million alone for voter ID, according to the data.

Feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth? I did a search in my archives but wasn’t able to find a post that documented how much money the state has spent and/or the Lege has appropriated to provide IDs for the people who needed them. I wanted to see how that figure compared to the amount the state has spent so far unsuccessfully fighting the lawsuits. It would be funny, in a totally not-funny way, if the latter were greater than the former. Whatever the case, I feel confident saying that if the state had been a bit more generous with allowed IDs, both providing them and legislating them, they could have spent a lot less on the lawyers defending the law. But these are their priorities.

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree this is a wasteful use of Texas’ taxpayer money. Seems like there are two parts to this story, the redistricting (AKA gerrymandering), which I disagree with. Isn’t that what Delay got indicted for? As for the voter ID part, I blame Abbot for leading the attack with the initial suit, then I blame the folks that decided to sue Texas over the ID law. You can still never convince me that the ultra poor American citizens don’t have ID. If they are collecting any kind of welfare, then they had an ID to do that, period. If you are telling me that hordes of ultra poor people are NOT collecting welfare because they couldn’t come up with a hundred bucks or so to get a state ID card, then I see a new business opportunity. I’ll loan those ultra poor people who don’t have a $ 16 state ID card and are not currently collecting welfare the money and give them the transportation to the various government offices to get that done, in return for a cut of their welfare benefits going forward. I’m gonna be rich!

  2. brad m says:

    Bill, why would someone even try to convince you when it is obvious you have a right-wing agenda and are presenting a ridiculously skewed version of what you think the argument is about regarding voter ID.

  3. Steven Houston says:

    Brad, is that really fair? He blamed right wingers for the redistricting AND the initial attack. Then he points out how anyone getting government benefits (aka: “the ultra poor”) has to have an ID to receive said benefits. Realistically, just how many people couldn’t afford some form of state ID when you need one to work, open a bank account, do most forms of business, and receive government largess?

    I’ve thought the way state officials from either party have gerrymandered was foolish, the democrats writing the book on how to do it when they were in charge of the state while the GOP later refined some of the techniques used. Would it be all that tough to come up with a mathematical process that used straight lines and pure numbers to figure such things?

    Then, with voter ID, as I pointed out several times in the past, I don’t think the amount of Chicago-styled voting here in Texas was that big an issue to merit all the expense (even pre-lawsuit expense). A few cases of voter fraud just doesn’t interest or convince me but claims of sweeping attempts to disenfranchise minority voters were not particularly convincing either, how many people live in Texas that have no form of state issued ID?

  4. brad m says:

    Steven,

    Can you specifically cite any journalistic confirmation of the “Chicago-styled voting” you are speaking of?

    It is these type of unfounded comments that negate any credible comments that you may bring to the table.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    Brad, considering how mediocre local media is on fact checking anything at all, you’re setting the bar quite low. Again, I’m discounting that style of voting fraud as it was raised repeatedly as one of the needs to make the changes. Historically, the dead voted in Chicago, people that moved away voted in elections, and people voted more than once in various cases. That has been well documented and if I have to school you on the subject, we can drop this right now. And while there have been voting fraud cases in Texas, they are almost never in person voting, mostly mail in ballots that are tampered with, but it does exist as proven time and again (just not worth the expense of the legal changes).

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