U.S. Rep. Veasey files a lawsuit to stop Texas’ voter ID law

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey joined seven others Wednesday in filing a federal lawsuit to keep Texas from enforcing its voter ID law.

Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed the papers in Corpus Christi federal court, calling the requirement to show a state-issued photo ID card at the ballot box unconstitutional.

The law “would have the effect of denying thousands of Texas voters the ability to vote in person, a large number of whom would be disenfranchised entirely since absentee voting in Texas is available to only certain specified categories of voters,” the lawsuit says.

It was filed one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declared a section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. That decision overthrew a decision by federal judges in Washington that Texas could not enforce the voter ID law.

The Washington court determined that the voter ID law was an example of “intentional discrimination” against minorities and used its authority under the Voting Rights Act to stop its enforcement.

But the Supreme Court ruled that the act wrongfully singled out Texas and other Southern states for such preclearance, and the court lost jurisdiction.

Although the Supreme Court did not overturn the voting law’s Section 5 — which requires states and localities in all or parts of nine states, including Texas, to get pre-approval of voting plans — the formula to implement it, dating from the 1960s, was found unconstitutional, leaving it up to Congress to devise a new one.

The ruling could free Texas and the other states, plus certain political jurisdictions in other states, from the requirement to get approval from the Justice Department for changes that might affect local elections.

On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomed the court’s decision and announced that he would begin enforcing the voter ID law immediately.

Veasey’s suit asks the Corpus Christi court to take over the case filed in Washington and to use the same evidence to determine whether the law violates the Constitution.

In the meantime, he asks the court to block implementation of the law pending a trial.

Veasey, who represents the 33rd Congressional District, one of four districts created statewide during the latest redistricting battle, had vowed to act quickly in Congress to restore what he and the others consider vital protections for voters. His district stretches from Fort Worth’s Stockyards to Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood.

He said during the redistricting process in 2011 that Texas proved that “many of our elected officials cannot be trusted to protect minority voting rights.”

But in a statement Wednesday, Abbott said that the Supreme Court has already ruled voter ID laws to be constitutional and that the ruling on Tuesday cleared the way for Texas to enforce its law.

“There is no valid reason to overturn Texas’ voter ID law. The partisans who opposed the law were unable to produce a single witness who would be prevented from voting once the voter ID law takes effect,” he said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has announced that it will begin processing applications for free voter ID cards this week.

The IDs are free and will be available to voters who do not yet have a viable form of ID, such as a driver’s license, a concealed handgun license, a passport or a military ID.

This report includes material from The Associated Press, The Texas Tribune and the Star-Telegram archives.

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