Voter ID Law Blocked By Feds In South Carolina, Texas Could Be Next
Huffington Post — Last week the Justice Department blocked a South Carolina law that would require voters to produce photo identification at the polls. Now a similar Texas voter ID law could very well be next to face a legal challenge. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas numbers among a few states, including South Carolina, that must have federal approval of any changes to its election laws because of its history of racial discrimination.
“The Texas attorney general’s office is prepared to take all necessary legal action to defend the voter ID law enacted by the Texas Legislature,” Texas AG spokeswoman Lauren Bean told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the organization’s senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said he expects the Texas law to be blocked as well.
“Our hope is that we see the same thing happening with Texas,” Shelton told The Huffington Post’s Black Voices on Wednesday afternoon.
“These very nasty, very strong photo ID laws have a desperate impact on racial minorities and other communities.”
The Texas law is very similar to the South Carolina law, Shelton said, and because of the requirement placed upon the state to get approval for election law changes, he believes it is all the more likely that the Justice Department will block it, as the department did in South Carolina.
“Having the Justice Department come in as an impartial third party and actually do the kind of analysis that it did, and its thorough assessment of the law and a thorough investigation into its possible impact; and to come out with what it did says an awful lot,” Shelton said.
The Justice Department’s decision was a rare victory for those fighting to stop what has been described as an effort to suppress turnout among minority voters and other groups that have historically supported Democrats. But the government’s intervention in South Carolina may also serve as a goad to those who support such laws. Proponents of voter ID laws say the measures are needed to protect against voter fraud. Both sides seem poised for a prolonged legal fight, with South Carolina as the first battleground. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has vowed to take the case to federal court, if need be.
Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the decision as an act of political “bullying”. “It is outrageous,” she said in reported statements. “We plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned.”
More than a dozen states have passed tough new voting restriction laws this year. Eight of those states, including Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, require photo identification. A handful of these laws — including the Texas law signed this summer by Gov. Rick Perry — are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.
In Texas, voters can present a gun permit but not college-issued identification. The fight thus far has split along partisan lines, the debate tinged with elements of age, race and class. According to Democrats, about 25 percent of African Americans and 19 percent of Latinos do not have any form of government-issued identification. And the poor and many older Americans, reports suggest, are less able to pay various fees connected with acquiring the identification that would be required under many of the new laws.
A number of minority and labor groups, including the NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers, the health care workers’ union 1199SEIU, the National Council of La Raza, the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund and others have joined forces and continue to hold protests and rallies around the country.
By Trymaine Lee