The Justice Department again slapped the hand of the Texas legislature Monday, blocking the state’s new voter ID law.
The law, passed during by the Eighty-second Legislature, would require all voters to produce a photo ID at their polling place. The Justice Department found that the law was likely to disenfranchise Hispanic voters and to have a “retrogressive” effect.
The Justice Department found that the law did not meet standards required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, outlined the Justice Department’s stance in a six-page letter to Keith Ingram, director of elections for the Texas Secretary of State. “Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card,” Perez wrote.
Perez found that the number of people in Texas lacking a driver’s license or ID card issued by DPS could number anywhere from 603,892 to 795,955. “[A]ccording to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification,” Perez wrote.
The Washington Post‘s Sari Horwitz noted this is the second voter ID bill the Obama Administration has blocked in since December, when the Justice Department found South Carolina’s voter ID bill to be similarly flawed. “The federal actions to block both the South Carolina and Texas voter ID laws represent the first time the government has rejected a voter-identification law in nearly 20 years,” Horwitz wrote.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott anticipated this move from the Justice Department, and filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Court in January to push for the law’s swift implementation, the Austin American-Statesman‘s Tim Eaton reported. Abbott expects a response to his lawsuit by April 9.
The Houston Chronicle‘s Gary Scharrer noted that under the law, valid forms of ID included driver’s licenses, Department of Public Safety photo identification cards, and concealed handgun permits, but not student IDs. The Houston Chronicle created a handy graphic by analyzing the voter registration records and DPS records that shows how many registered voters lack IDs in tenTexas counties. According to the graphic, up to 358,803 registered voters in Harris County and 220,646 in Dallas County could lack photo ID.
Governor Rick Perry said that decision to reject the law was baseless and slammed the Obama Administration for its “continuing and pervasive federal overreach.”
State senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, cheered the Justice Department’s move in a statement:
There are more UFO and Bigfoot sightings than documented cases of voter impersonation. After years of testimony and debate, supporters of Texas’ voter ID law still cannot prove their case that voter impersonation is even a minor problem in Texas. We, unfortunately, have plenty of evidence that it will disenfranchise legal student, elderly, African American and Hispanic voters. The Department of Justice saw that evidence and made the right decision.
(Want to see more reactions? The Texas Tribune‘s Julián Aguilar meticulously compiled responses to the news from both sides of the aisle.)