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DOJ Refuses to Clear Texas Voter ID Law

Gov. Rick Perry's ceremonial signing of SB 14, the state's Voter ID law.
Photo courtesy
Gov. Rick Perry's ceremonial signing of SB 14, the state's Voter ID law.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to clear Texas’ voter ID requirements, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011.

The state and the DOJ have been at odds over the issue for months, with the feds requesting additional information to ascertain whether the law would have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens.

Texas is one of the Southern states covered under the Voting Rights Act; Section 5 of the act requires the DOJ to “pre-clear” any electoral changes states make that might impact minority voters.

A letter sent from the DOJ to the Texas Secretary of State today says that Texas’ voter ID law has a detrimental effect:   

“Under Section 5, the Attorney General must determine whether the submitting authority has met its burden of showing that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color or membership in a large minority group. … I cannot conclude the state has met its burden.“

The DOJ sifted through Texas census data and other publicly available statistics in making its decision. It argues Latino voters are 46 percent to 120 percent more likely to be affected by the law than other groups:

Thus, we conclude that the total number of registered voters who lack a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS could range from 603,892 to 795,955. The disparity between the percentages of Hispanics and non-Hispanics who lack these forms of identification ranges from 46.5 to 120.0 percent. That is, according to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification. Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant.

It also cites additional impediments Latino voters could face: 81 of Texas’ 254 counties don’t have an operational driver’s license office, and only 49 of Texas’ 221 drivers license offices have expanded hours outside of the workday, making it easier for working citizens to get an ID.  

You can read the entire DOJ opinion online.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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