Texas Republicans are fuming over the U.S. Justice Department’s rejection of the state’s Voter Identification law. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports as a result of the ruling, primary voters may not have to produce a photo ID in order to cast a ballot this spring.
The United States Justice Department said more than 300,000 Hispanic voters lack both drivers licenses and an approved photo card - like a state issued ID - which the law insists they have. Otherwise, you could not vote.
The Department said the Voter ID law failed to adequately solve these and other problems, like how to get an ID without traveling more than 100 miles, in some cases.
While Republicans passed the bill saying it would help eliminate voter fraud, Democratic critics, including Dallas Senator Royce West, said even the State’s Attorney General found no fraud. He mentioned other problems with the law he said is designed to quell young and minority voters likely to vote Democratic.
West: For some strange reason, student ID was left out. But concealed a handgun license can be used as an ID. Why not allow a student ID? And you would see that students normally vote Democratic, and the concealed handgun licensees are going to vote, what, Republican?
Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who backs the law, said this decision was no surprise. He added the U.S. Supreme Court has already held that Voter ID requirements are constitutional and nondiscriminatory.
He said Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Wisconsin are allowed to require photo identification to vote. Texas, he said, should not be treated differently. State Representative Todd Smith, a leading advocate for this law, expects the Justice Department will be overruled by the courts, and Texas will eventually follow the lead already laid down by the Supreme Court.
Smith:That this is simply a common sense and minimal burden that is appropriate to insure the integrity of our elections and to insure that every vote that is counted is a vote that is legally cast.
As this election year heats up, Smith and West both say politics is fueling arguments for and against this law.