This week the U.S. Department of Justice put Texas on notice, rejecting its controversial voting measure requiring a valid state-issued photo identification card to vote. According to documents provided by the state of Texas, as many as 795,955 registered voters in Texas do not have a state issued driver’s license, while at least 603,892 voters do not possess a license.
And the Lone Star State’s Voter ID law is considered one of the more stringent in the nation.
It’s been argued that Latino voters in Texas are disproportionately affected by the lack of driver’s licenses. Hence, the reason behind DOJ’s reluctance to approve it. “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5%, and potentially 120 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez stated in a letter addressed to the Texas Elections Director. “Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant.”
So before the State of Texas could implement a law that would effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters, the DOJ slammed on the brakes. But the fight is not yet over, as a federal court in Washington, D.C. will now have to decide whether the law can be enforced. The Voting Rights Act gave the federal government the power to examine changes in voting procedures in states and jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination, which is why the Texas law came under scrutiny.
Politic365 spoke with Lydia Camarillo, the Vice President of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project about the DOJ’s rejection of the Texas voter identification law for some perspective.
“We have a problem in Texas — the state doesn’t have enough offices and the resources to provide all of those voters without the proper identification with those photo IDs,” argued Camarillo. “What they (the state) are proposing, they don’t have the capacity to do. How is an ID for possession of a gun acceptable to vote but a student ID isn’t?”
If you are older and no longer drive, you may not have a license. If you live in a rural county and do not drive, going to the nearest motor vehicle office could be costly and inconvenient. If you switch bags and leave an identification card in a different handbag, you could show up to the polls and only be given a provisional ballot and then have to provide valid identification within six days after the election. In essence, the state of Texas has created a major roadblock to voting for Texans with fewer resources to enforce the law.
“These new voting rights laws that are popping up around the country are merely a tactic to circumvent the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and apply a modern-day poll tax,” says Melanie L. Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “The Texas voter ID law would have put an unfair burden on poor, minority and disabled voters, students and senior citizens and could have resulted in preventing thousands of citizens from exercising their right to vote.”
Finally, incidents of voter fraud in Texas are minimal, and none of the cases found would have been affected by a voter identification requirement. Camarillo points out that the Texas Attorney General spent one million dollars trying to find a case to illustrate a problem with voter fraud that identification would have remedied – and his office found none. So Texas’s updated poll tax disguised as a voter identification law isn’t really solving a problem, it’s just adding an additional burden on voters and ultimately the government, which would have to generate more photo identifications. That comes with a price.