The Justice Department Is Doing its Part to Protect Texas Voters
The Justice Department is doing its part to protect a basic American right
September 3, 2013
A lot of politics boils down to one simple math problem: get more than 50 percent of the vote, and you win. But Republicans in Texas have been making a series of more cynical calculations the last few years.
Instead of trying to win the battle of ideas to get elected to local, state and federal office, they're trying to shrink the electorate – eliminating access to the voting booth for people they fear won't support them.
As a Hispanic Democratic legislator, and I can tell you that there's nothing inherent about Hispanics, for example, that make us more likely to vote for Democrats. At all levels of government, Republicans have the chance to compete for our votes with their own ideas.
But the Texas GOP is eschewing this basic tenet of American democracy by committing to a strategy of voter suppression. They've enacted a voter identification law that makes only a limited number of government-issued documents valid for voting; Medicaid and student ID cards, for example, are not allowed, so you can guess whose votes they're trying to suppress.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit unanimously and unambiguously stated in 2011 that the law would have “a retrogressive effect on Hispanic and African American voters.” But that hasn't stopped the Republicans from passing it.
Supporters of voter ID laws – in Texas, North Carolina and across the country – claim they are meant to solve the problem of voter fraud. But that's like enacting a bill outlawing chupacabras; both voter fraud and the mythical creature are illusions invented to scare you. Neither exists. Tens of millions of ballots have been cast in Texas in the last decade, and you can count on one hand the times the Texas secretary of state has prosecuted a Texan for voter fraud.
Those supporting voter suppression cheered in June when the Supreme Court made its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down part of the Voting Rights Sct. But the Court did not strike down the entirety of the Voting Rights Act, and the remaining parts still provide us with tools to ensure that states have some federal oversight of their election laws.
When a state adopts voting practices that intentionally discriminate against a minority group, Sections 2 and 3 of the Voting Rights Act can require a state to once again pre-clear voting changes with the Justice Department. I'm confident we can prove intentional discrimination in court.
By filing a new lawsuit to invalidate Texas' voter ID law, the Justice Department is doing its part to protect a basic American right. The Justice Department's action is welcome, and Texans of all parties should be pleased to have an ally who understands that protections for minority voters in Texas are still critically necessary.