The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected Texas’ application for preclearance of its voter ID law, saying the state did not prove that the bill would not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters.
“The department’s letter states that Texas did not meet its burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of showing that the law will not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and therefore the department objects to the Texas voter identification law,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman. “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5%, and potentially 120%, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack the required identification.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in a letter to Keith Ingram, the director of Texas’ elections division on Monday:
“As noted above, an applicant for an election identification certificate will have to travel to a driver’s license office. This raises three discrete issues. First, according to the most recent American Community Survey three-year estimates, 7.3 percent of Hispanic or Latino households do not have an available vehicle, as compared with only 3.8 percent of non-Hispanic white households that lack an available vehicle. Statistically significant correlations exist between the Hispanic voting-age population percentage of a county, and the percentage of occupied housing units without a vehicle.
Second, in 81 of the state’s 254 counties, there are no operational driver’s license offices. The disparity in the rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics with regard to the possession of either a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS is particularly stark in counties without driver’s license offices. According to the September 2011 data, 10.0 percent of Hispanics in counties without driver’s license offices do not have either form of identification, compared to 5.5 percent of non-Hispanics. According to the January 2012 data, that comparison is 14.6 percent of Hispanics in counties without driver’s license offices, as compared to 8.8 percent of non-Hispanics. During the legislative hearings, one senator stated that some voters in his district could have to travel up to 176 miles roundtrip in order to reach a driver’s license office.
As I’ve probably made clear with my tens of voting rights posts, I think this is a really important issue, and worth fighting for. When conservatives say one fraudulently cast vote is one too many, well, I feel exactly the same way and just as strongly that one wrongfully disenfranchised voter is one too many. After years of looking at this, my conclusion is that conservatives are demanding that we on the voter access side accept a certain amount of risk and collateral damage with these voter ID laws that they would not and will not accept on their issue, which is (supposedly) voter impersonation fraud. I don’t know why I would accept any risk at all when they won’t. They’re demanding that their fears about voter impersonation fraud trump our concerns about voter access, completely and presumptively. I don’t accept that. If one is too many on the voter impersonation fraud side, then one is too many on the voter access side.
In addition. Because I’ve been on several conference calls this year with voting rights people who are members of and work on behalf of various minority communities, I have learned, listening, that this is an extremely important issue to the people in the Democratic base who are in the targeted minority groups. They want action on this. They want voting rights affirmatively protected. It’s good policy and good politics to do that.