The GOP campaign against voter rights now boasts 30 states with restrictive voter ID laws. While 16 states allow non-photo forms of ID, 14 must include a photo of the voter. Texas, however, joins four other states this year that decided to enact “one of the most restrictive pieces of voter ID legislation in the entire country.”
Passed in May, Texas’ law forces those who do not have a state or federal photo ID to vote by provisional ballot which will only be counted if they return with a valid ID. University Student ID cards and even official state or federal government employee ID cards do not qualify under this law. The law also prohibits veterans from using their ID card from the Department of Veterans Affairs to vote, even though it is a government-issued photo ID. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) urged the state legislature to pass the law as an “emergency item” and submitted the law to the U.S. Justice Department for “pre-clearance” last month.
Now, numerous civil rights organizations are urging the DOJ to stop the law in its tracks. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, changes to Texas’ election laws must be “precleared” to ensure that law does not have discriminatory effects. Noting that such laws can disenfranchise veterans, students, women, low-income voters, seniors, and minorities, the ACLU, the Asian American Justice Center, the Advancement Project, the Southwest Workers Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Texas NAACP sent a letter to the DOJ insisting the law will indeed discriminate against — and disenfranchise — Texas voters.
Joining the opposition, the League of Young Voters Education Fund also collected statements from dozens of students to confirm that the Texas law will disenfranchise them:
“Texas’s proposed photo ID measure, which does not permit the use of a government-issued student identification card as an acceptable form of identification at the polls, would disfranchise students who only possess student identification,” said Christina Sanders, State Director for the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund.
Critics said this applies especially for many African-American students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black university located in Waller County, who have been the target of multiple efforts to deny their votes over the years. The League of Young Voters Education Fund collected statements from dozens of students at Prairie View confirming that the proposed photo ID law will disfranchise them.
Republican lawmakers, however, state that the law is necessary to prevent fraud. And yet, “there is absolutely no record of voter fraud with respect to in-person voting in Texas.” Former Texas Republican Party political director Royal Masset denounced his party’s rationale more bluntly: “It’s a lie. It’s not true. It does not exist.”
Regardless of fact, Perry still stands firmly behind the law. “Voter ID can ensure an accurate reflection of the will of the voters,” his spokeswoman said Wednesday. “Without confidence in our elections process, the rights of all voters are cast in doubt.”
The DOJ has until Sept. 23 to object to the law on the grounds of discrimination.