Voting Rights Groups Charge TX With Discriminatory Intent Over Voter ID Law

Release Date: 
September 14, 2011

Washington, DC - National and local civil rights groups will release a letter today  to the Department of Justice charging that an unnecessary, unfair, restrictive photo voter ID law intentionally discriminates against African American and Latino voters.

Advancement Project, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, and Southwest Workers Union, a statewide Hispanic organization will submit a letter to Department of Justice in opposition to the preclearance of the Texas Photo Voter Identification law (SB14) citing the State's failure to prove that the law was enacted for a nondiscriminatory purpose and that it will have no discriminatory effect on minorities as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  

"This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century," states Advancement Project co director Judith Browne Dianis, one of the nation's leading civil rights litigators. "If this bill is allowed to stand it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation's democracy."

"Mandatory government-issued photo ID requirements, including the Texas law, substantially burden the voting rights of persons of color, who are less likely to possess such identification," said Brenda Wright, Director of Demos' Democracy Program. "The Voting Rights Act forbids such discriminatory enactments, and DOJ should act promptly to block Texas from implementing this law."

While the law was passed ostensibly to prevent voter fraud, there is no evidence of any in person impersonation occurring in recent Texas elections.  A 2008 study documented that out of the millions of Texas voters between 2006 and 2008, none were accused of in-person impersonation.  The letter to the Department of Justice states that the lack of clear evidence of voter impersonation at the polls, calls into question the governor's  motives in fast tracking the bill and the legislature's reasons for its passage.   

Governor Rick Perry facilitated passage of the law by declaring a "legislative emergency" which allowed the legislature to exempt the bill from the normal process preventing debate and any delay of the vote as had occurred with previous photo ID proposals. 

The new law limits the acceptable forms of ID an eligible voter can present in order to vote by regular ballot to a Texas-issued driver's license, a state identification card, a license to carry a concealed handgun, a military ID card, or a US passport, all of which must be current or have expired within 60 days of being presented.  Current law allows the use of utility bills, bank statements, paychecks and any government document that includes name and address.  

Black and Latino  voters are approximately twice as likely to lack the requisite state ID than white voters and will  experience a heavier burden in terms of costs than their white counterparts.  Only 9 percent of white Texans live below the federal poverty level compared to 22 percent of African Americans and 26 percent of Latinos.  Black and Latino voters in Texas earn 44 percent less than White voters. 

The bill requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue an election identification certificate free of charge to those who request it for voting purposes, but in approximately half of all of Texas's counties the Department offices are closed, temporarily closed, or have reduced business hours. The overwhelming majority of the 126 counties are majority-minority.   The ability to get and pay for the underlying documents to secure the state required photo ID to vote pose a disproportionate burden on Latinos and African Americans. 

For information and copies of the letter please see the above contacts.