Department of Justice disputes Texas voter-ID law

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March 31, 2012

By Maresa Strano


AUSTIN, Texas: The saga over Texas' voter-ID legislation continues to evolve. Last year, lawmakers in Texas passed a bill which would require voters to verify their identities and eligibility status at the polls by showing a selected form of acceptable photo-ID.

Fast forward to March 2012.

Two days after the U.S. Department of Justice rebuffed the law for conflicting with relevant minority protections contained in the Voting Rights Act, the federal government found itself facing a mass of--mostly Republican--supporters galvanized behind attorney general Greg Abbott as he filed suit in Washington, D.C. to challenge the ruling.

At issue is the Voting Rights Act provision demanding that states with a history of discrimination, like Texas, to be pre-cleared before changing their election laws. The Republicans intend to reclaim their voter-fraud-fighting legislation by seeking liberation from the list of states beholden to this pre-clearance caveat, citing the paramount importance of preserving the integrity of Texas' voting process.

Gov. Rick Perry (R) defended the law in a Fox News interview saying that Texas has suffered from "multiple cases of voter fraud."[1] The facts remain, however, as the critics are quick to note, that there were only 20 allegations of election law violations warranting attention from the attorney general's office in the last two statewide elections cycles combined, none of which were related to voter-impersonation- the only kind of fraud the law would effectively target. Proponents of the law counter that the occasion of voter-impersonation cannot be accurately measured without the photo-ID requirement, hence the problem could actually be far worse than currently feared.

According to the Justice Department, the photo-ID requirement could hurt over 600,000 otherwise eligible, disproportionately Hispanic, voters.[1]

With the May 29 primary elections for local, state, and legislative offices in sight, the case has been turned over to federal court to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

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