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It was no surprise that the Department of Justice blocked Texas’s photo voter ID law yesterday. Texas Republicans’s reaction was also no surprise. They’re pissed, though it’s hard to believe they are really shocked.
Texas Representative Lamar Smith: “This is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas. It’s time for the Obama administration to learn not to mess with Texas.”
Like South Carolina, Texas was a state subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for its history of voter discrimination against African Americans. This means Texas needs clearance from DOJ to institute any new voter laws so their discriminatory past is never revisited. Texas’s photo voter ID law was rejected due to the discriminatory effect it would have on Hispanic voters, given that a significantly greater portion of them lack ID and lack the means to obtain ID, meaning the law amounts to a poll tax.
Hardly a plot twist. In fact moving forward, let’s agree now that there will be more states that pass photo voter ID laws, and more rejections from DOJ or courts in at least some of those cases. Here’s what will follow:
·Organizations fighting to protect voting rights will applaud the blocks, citing that certain populations would be disenfranchised under voter ID laws, and in most cases the data will support them.
·Republicans will cry foul saying that “voter fraud” compels the state to have voter ID laws. In most if not all cases the data will not support them.
·Some Republicans will say that the Obama administration is impeding on states’ rights while other Republicans will hint that Democrats are trying to steal the November 2012 elections. Those same Republicans will push to have voter ID laws reinstated by the November 2012 elections.
The Details in Texas
This DOJ ruling was not a surprise to Texas. Texas sued the federal government last year in anticipation of being rejected. Nonetheless, Texas Republicans were appalled by DOJ’s decision yesterday. Senator John Cornyn said it “reeks of politics,” which is, at best, dishonest. Texas understood it needed clearance under the Voting Rights Act as a covered jurisdiction. It also knew what it had to do to make its case for why the voter ID should fly.
But when it came time to supply the numbers requested by DOJ to make an empirical decision about the law, Texas lunched. They supplied two sets of numbers of registered Hispanic voters thought to lack photo ID without bothering to reconcile either.