No more whining about voter ID suit

Posted Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Howls of protest came from Republican state officials Thursday when the Justice Department said it would sue Texas to block the new voter ID law.

What came up lacking was any real argument against the facts of the case.

“We will continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration’s blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment,” said Gov. Rick Perry.

The 10th Amendment reserves to the states all powers not specifically given to the federal government or prohibited to the states in the Constitution.

The Constitution does leave states with the power to run elections. But the 14th and 15th Amendments guarantee all citizens the right to vote.

Sen. John Cornyn showed equal bluster, saying, “As Texans we reject the notion that the federal government knows what’s best for us. We deserve the freedom to make our own laws …”

No, Texans reserve the freedom to make laws that the Constitution allows. We don’t want any part of laws that deny individual rights.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued this confusing remark: “The assertions of their case are actually a prime example of the of the sort of discriminatory behavior they purport to oppose.”


Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott came closest to a coherent argument when he said, “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws do not suppress legal votes, but do help prevent illegal votes.”

The problem is, Texas doesn’t have a generic voter ID law. It has a very strict one, so strict that a federal district court in Washington, D.C. already has found it to be harmful to the voting rights of African Americans and Hispanics.

The Justice Department is bringing up the matter again because in June the Supreme Court set aside a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act under which the district court heard the previous Texas case.

But the Constitution and remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act still forbid discrimination in the election process.

And the facts in Texas haven’t changed. Evidence in the district court case showed:

• Texas provided data showing that 10.8 percent of its Hispanic registered voters lack the required ID, compared to only 4.9 percent of non-Hispanic voters.

• Department of Public Safety offices issue free ID cards, but many counties don’t have an office and some offices are open only a few days a week. Offices are not open late or on weekends, so many people would have to take off work to get an ID.

• Transportation problems fall more heavily on minorities in Texas, with 13.1 percent of African Americans and 7.3 percent of Hispanics living in households without access to a motor vehicle, compared with only 3.8 percent of whites.

• People who want an ID must present documents, the least expensive of which, a birth certificate, costs $22.

• The Legislature rejected amendments aimed at softening requirements to get an ID, some of which are in effect in other states that have voter ID laws. Requiring DPS offices to open late and on weekends was one of the ideas rejected.

The difference when a federal court takes up the latest Justice Department suit is a big one.

In the previous case, Texas had the burden of proving that its new law was not discriminatory. This time, the Justice Department will have to prove its allegations against the state’s voter ID plan.

These are questions that everyone should want to see resolved. When it gets to court, political bluster will be worth nothing.

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