Texas's strict new voter ID law, put in place by this past session's Tea Party legislature to stem the tidal wave of voter fraud that is actually not happening at all, has been blocked by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The new law unfairly targets Hispanic voters, the feds said.
"[T]he state has failed to demonstrate why it could not meet its stated goals of ensuring electoral integrity and deterring ineligible voters from voting in a manner that would have avoided this retrogressive effect," the DOJ said in a letter to Texas officials.
State Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston applauded the move. "I thank the Justice Department for standing up for voting rights," said Ellis. "Throughout the preclearance process, Texas consistently failed to produce information showing the law would not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. The Voting Rights Act exists for this exact purpose: protecting the ability of all Americans to access the ballot box."
Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott have already been critical of the federal government's failure to approve the law before the upcoming primary.
We'll add their reaction when we get it.
As of now, Texas voters will not be required to produce a photo ID before they are allowed to vote in either the primary or the general election.
Studies have varied widely on how many legitimate voters do not have a photo ID, with some saying a million or more such Texas voters might be disenfranchised.
Supporters say the law is needed to prevent voter fraud, but Ellis scoffed at the idea.
"There are more UFO and Bigfoot sightings than documented cases of voter impersonation," he said. "After years of testimony and debate, supporters of Texas's 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."
Update: The Texas chapter of the ACLU weighs in:
We are pleased that the Justice Department recognized the discriminatory nature of the Texas Photo Voter ID Law. The data clearly shows that Hispanic voters are more likely to lack the necessary documentation to vote, and this law has been characterized as a return to Jim Crow. This unconstitutional measure would have deprived the poor, the handicapped, the elderly, and many people of color of their right to vote. But, because it was written to particularly target Hispanics, this Juan Crow version is particularly malicious. We applaud the Justice Department for stepping in to ensure that the democratic process and the right to vote for all eligible voters is protected in Texas.
And Rick Perry:
Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama Administration's continuing and pervasive federal overreach
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