The Justice Department's "Civil Rights Division" blocked a Texas law Monday that would require voters to have a valid photo ID. Though the measure aims to combat voter fraud, the Justice Department has determined that the law would disproportionately hinder minority voters, and therefore violates the Voting Rights Act.
In a letter to the government, Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for human rights, wrote, “Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card...and that disparity is statistically significant."
According to the New York Times:
Texas has roughly 12.8 million registered voters, of whom about 2.8 million are Hispanic. The state [supplied] two sets of data comparing its voter rolls to a list of people who had valid state-issued photo identification cards — one for September and the other in January — showing that Hispanic voters were 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely to lack such identification.
Under the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions that have a history of suppressing minority voting — like Texas — must show that any proposed change to voting rules would not have a disproportionate impact on minority voters, even if there is no evidence of discriminatory intent...
Voters in the state would be required to present one of seven types of government-issued photo identification, which includes a driver's license, a passport or even a concealed handgun permit. Those lacking an ID could be given a provisional ballot, but would have to present an approved form of identification to the registrar's office no later than six days after the election.
The state even offered to provide a free photo ID to legal voters, but the Justice Department said this was not enough, because there are other costs and bureaucratic inconveniences associated with that process.
Anticipating the Justice Department's reaction, Texas officials have asked a panel of judges to allow them to enforce the law.
Rep. Lamar Smith, who is Texas' chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, criticized the Justice Department, saying that "the people of Texas overwhelmingly [support]" the measure, and that "this is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas."