Texas Voter Photo ID Law Blocked by Federal Court

Aug 30, 2012 Print This Post

ACLU Had Argued Law Was Discriminatory and Violated Voting Rights Act

CONTACT: Vesna Jaksic, ACLU national, (212) 284-7347 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas (713) 942-8146; dgriffith@aclutx.org

WASHINGTON — A U.S. District Court today blocked Texas’ new voter ID law because it was found to discriminate against minorities and conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

In doing so, the three-judge panel in Washington removed a stumbling block that opponents of the law argued could keep up to 1.5 million Texas voters from the polls in November, the majority of whom are Hispanic or Black.

“By blocking this law, the court reaffirmed the right of all people in this country to participate in our democracy,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, which represented Texas-based organizations and individuals in the case.

The ACLU and other groups maintained that minorities are less likely to possess any of the six forms of acceptable government-issued photo ID required under the law.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of discriminatory voting laws – including Texas – must have changes to their voting laws approved, or pre-cleared, by the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court in Washington. Texas originally sought preclearance from the DOJ, which the DOJ denied on March 12.  Prior to receiving a final decision from DOJ, however, the state requested approval from the court as well.

“This case demonstrates precisely why we still need Section 5 in 2012,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Without the process of federal review it mandates, democracy would have failed the largely minority population who cannot afford to purchase the underlying documents, travel long distances – up to 100 miles in some cases – or take off work to get to the closest government office that issues photo identification.”

The ACLU was among several groups that intervened in the case on the side of DOJ.

“The ACLU remains committed to helping enforce the Voting Rights Act and we will continue to challenge any law that threatens the fairness of the voting process for any U.S. citizen,” Abudu said.

Rev. Peter Johnson, of the civil rights and social justice organization Justice Seekers, who testified during the trial, said the decision has implications beyond Texas.

“Historically, the federal courts have been the only place where minorities in the South could defend their right to vote. This decision today further confirms that the system works, that there still are processes by which we can ensure our rights are protected, and that those who fought for equality during the civil rights movement did not do so in vain.”

Department of Justice Objections

The Department of Justice has objected to 207 proposed changes to voting in Texas. The breakdown by political subdivision is as follows:

67 against school districts
60 against counties
51 against cities
19 against state of Texas
4 against water districts
2 against hospital districts
2 against county courts
2 against community college districts