Texas Voter ID Law Heads to Federal Court

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 06:29 AM

By Elliot Jager

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A federal court in Corpus Christi will hear arguments this week on whether a Texas law requiring voters to show picture ID violates the Voting Rights Act, The New York Times reported.

The Justice Department, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and other groups are challenging the law, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, claiming that it discriminates against blacks and Hispanics, NPR reported. The state charges that the Justice Department has solely targeted "Southern, Republican-led states" while ignoring the concerns of white Republican voters, according to the Times.

Since the law passed in June 2013, voters need to present any of the following forms of photo identification in order to cast their vote: Texas driver's license, Election ID, Texas ID, handgun permit, U.S. military ID, U.S. citizenship certificate, or a United States passport. Identification can be obtained for free, though voters may have to pay to obtain a certified birth certificate in order to prove their identity in the first place.

"Voter ID has already been used in several elections in Texas without the disenfranchisement claimed by partisans who seem to be against election integrity," said  Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas attorney general Greg Abbott.

A loss for Texas would result in the federal government having to clear any changes in the state's election law – as had been the case until oversight was lifted by the Supreme Court when it nullified part of the Voting Rights Act in June 2013. In challenging the Texas law and asking preclearance to be reinstituted, the Justice Department is relying on other clauses of the Voting Rights Act that are unchanged by the court's ruling.

The law's opponents say not only are fees entailed in obtaining some of the ostensibly free IDs, but travel to a Department of Public Safety office is also required, and some voters have no cars or access to public transportation. The state has placed a mobile public safety office in every county to address some of these concerns.

The trial before Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama appointee to the U.S.  District Court, is expected to last two to three weeks. It will likely be appealed regardless of the outcome, according to NPR.


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