Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a new Texas state law that would institute strict photo identification requirements for all citizens trying to vote. The DOJ refused to grant the law pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act, noting that the bill would unfairly disenfranchise Hispanic voters.
Supporters of the bill say the law is needed to prevent voter impersonation. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued:
Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama administration’s continuing and pervasive federal overreach.
How big has the problem been? According to the San Antonio Express-News:
Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.
The Texas attorney general’s office did not give the outcome of the four illegal voting complaints that were filed. Only one remains pending, according to agency records.
And as ThinkProgress Justice previously reported, more people than that have been denied their right to vote due to these sorts of strict voter ID laws.
Though Perry has claimed Texas has endured “multiple cases” of voter fraud, even of the paltry 20 election law violation allegations the state’s attorney general handled in the 2008 and 2010 elections, most related to mail-in ballot or campaign finance violations, electioneering too close to a polling place, and a voter blocked by an election worker.
It is unclear how many Texans attempt to illegally check out library books while impersonating neighbors or dead people, each year. But in a state of more than 25 million people, the odds of being even accused of voter impersonation in the Lone Star State are less than one in 6,250,000.
On his Election Law Blog, University of California, Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen notes that, given that the Texas attorney general’s office did not reveal the results of the four illegal voting complaints, “Texas had perhaps ZERO voter impersonation cases over three years.”