Wanted to take a closer look at the Texas voter ID case. I think it’s important to understand that this law has already been determined to be discriminatory, yet Texas is going forward with it anyway.
What follows are portions of the DOJ complaint that was filed on August 22nd:
Passage of SB 14 Was Motivated By Discriminatory Intent
Against a backdrop of dramatic growth in the State’s Hispanic population, the Texas legislature advanced increasingly stringent and burdensome voter ID bills over several legislative sessions beginning in 2005. This process culminated in the enactment of SB 14, a highly restrictive law that—when passed—exceeded the requirements imposed by any other state.
Legislative debate and public statements concerning these voter ID bills contained
anti-immigrant rhetoric. In addition, while the public record contains statements suggesting that voter ID legislation was needed to prevent noncitizens from voting, noncitizens may lawfully possess several of the forms of identification required for in-person voting under SB 14.
The State sought to minimize minority legislators’ effective participation in the debate concerning SB 14. The legislature and Governor implemented a series of unusual procedures including designating SB 14 as emergency legislation, which enabled the Senate to consider the bill on an expedited schedule; amending Senate rules to exempt voter identification legislation from the two-thirds majority tradition usually required for bill consideration; and creating a select House committee, whose members were hand-picked by the Speaker, to consider only SB 14.
While the stated purpose of SB 14 was to ensure the integrity of elections, voter ID proponents cited virtually no evidence during or after enactment of SB 14 that in-person voter impersonation—the only form of election fraud addressed by the identification requirements of SB 14—was a serious problem or that the State’s then-existing identification procedures had failed to prevent in-person voter impersonation.
This is what happened next, when we still had Section 5 the VRA:
SB 14 has not been in effect in any election in Texas. At the time that SB 14 was signed into law—on May 27, 2011—Texas could not implement any changes to its voting procedures without first obtaining preclearance from the U.S. Attorney General or from a three judge court of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, as a result of Texas’s coverage under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (Section 5).
In order to obtain preclearance under Section 5, Texas was required to demonstrate that SB 14 “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race[,] color[, or membership in a language minority group].”
On March 12, 2012, the Attorney General interposed an objection under Section 5 to Texas’s submission of SB 14 because Texas had failed to show that the law “will not have a retrogressive effect, or that any specific features of [SB 14] will prevent or mitigate that retrogression.” The Attorney General explained that Texas’s own data had shown that Hispanic voters were at least 46.5% more likely (according to the September 2011 data) and potentially up to 120.0% more likely (according to the January 2012 data) than non-Hispanic voters to lack a driver’s license or personal ID card issued by the State. On January 24, 2012, Texas filed a declaratory judgment action seeking judicial preclearance under Section 5 of SB 14 from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
On August 30, 2012, following a weeklong bench trial, the three-judge court issued a unanimous decision denying preclearance under Section 5 to SB 14 and concluding that “record evidence suggests that SB 14, if implemented, would in fact have a retrogressive effect on Hispanic and African American voters.” The three-judge district court concluded that “(1) a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID; (2) the burdens associated with obtaining ID will weigh most heavily on the poor; and (3) racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.” Id.
Finally, the three-judge court found that the Texas legislature enacted “the most stringent [voter ID law] in the country” and “ignor[ed] warnings that SB 14, as written, would disenfranchise minorities and the poor” and rejected or tabled potentially ameliorative amendments ..
In other words, Texas lost. Then came the Supreme Court decision on the VRA, a decision that rescued the same Texas law that had been found to be discriminatory:
Within hours after the Shelby County decision, the State of Texas announced its intention to begin enforcing the voter ID requirements of SB 14. On June 27, 2013, in response to Texas’s appeal, the Supreme Court summarily vacated the judgment in Texas v. Holder and remanded for further consideration in light of the decision in Shelby County.
This should be a political issue as well as a legal issue for conservatives. How do they defend this politically? They’re discriminating against Latino and AA voters, they have been told they’re likely to disenfranchise Latino and AA voters, yet they haven’t reconsidered this law or offered anything to mitigate the harm that will result. I anticipate that voting enthusiasts will be sternly lectured on how we can’t use this “politically” but this belongs in the political sphere as well as in a courtroom. Elected conservatives should have to defend this in public, outside legal filings and a courtroom.
They’re politicians. Why would we insulate them from politics, and political accountability? Hell yes, we should and will “use” this politically. Why wouldn’t we?
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. STATE OF TEXAS here (pdf)