Pete Yost, Yahoo! News, March 12, 2012
The Justice Department’s civil rights division on Monday objected to a new photo ID requirement for voters in Texas because many Hispanic voters lack state-issued identification.
Texas follows South Carolina as the second state in recent months to become embroiled in a court battle with the Justice Department over new photo ID requirements for voters.
Photo ID laws have become a point of contention in the 2012 elections. Liberal groups have said the requirements are the product of Republican-controlled state governments and are aimed at disenfranchising people who tend to vote Democratic — African-Americans, Hispanics, people of low-income and college students.
Proponents of such legislation say the measures are aimed at combating voter fraud. But advocacy groups for minorities and the poor dispute that and argue there is no evidence of significant voter fraud.
In regard to Texas, “I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden” of showing that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect, Thomas E. Perez, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a letter to the Texas secretary of state.
As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas is required under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to get advance approval of voting changes from either the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
In a letter to Texas officials that was also filed in the court case in Washington, the Justice Department said Hispanic voters in Texas are more than twice as likely than non-Hispanic voters to lack a driver’s license or personal state-issued photo ID. The department said that even the lowest estimates showed about half of Hispanic registered voters lack such identification.