Feds Reject TX Voter ID Law; Issue Heads To Court

A new Texas law requiring voters to provide photo identification has been stopped by the U.S. Department of Justice, because it will have disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters. If Texas still wants to implement the law, it will now have to fight it out in the federal courts.

Under federal law, Texas is one of nine states that must get approval from the federal government when it changes voting laws.

Charles “Rocky” Rhodes is a professor at the South Texas College of Law.

“Texas because we’ve had a longstanding history of vote discrimination with respect to minorities — which goes back to poll taxes and white-only primaries and many other things that Texas did for decades — is subject to what is called pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.”

In this case, the Department of Justice refused to grant pre-clearance on the law.

The Department says the state’s own statistics showed Hispanics were up to 120 percent more likely than Anglo voters not to have the photo ID required by the new law.

The rejection letter also mentioned that the law would require some voters to spend money and time trying to get the right form of ID to vote.

Rhodes says that for poor voters without transportation, this could be burdensome.

“Unfortunately, in Texas, some 81 of our counties, almost a third of our counties don’t have driver’s license offices. And so sometimes the evidence was showing that for some people this was going to require a 200 mile, or close to a 200 mile round trip to get a voter ID card, picture ID card, that they could use in order to cast their ballot.”

Rhodes says other states have also tried to pass voter identification laws, but he’s not sure what problem the laws are addressing.

“There really isn’t evidence of any significant voter fraud that’s been occurring in Texas or any other state for that matter. The reality of it is that our problem with voting is not that people fraudulently vote, it’s that  people don’t go and vote.”

Texas could have dropped the matter, but instead has already filed a lawsuit in federal court to uphold the law.

Depending on what happens in the courts, this law could be back in effect for the presidential election in November.


Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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