Texas vs. The Feds On Voting Rights

13Mar12

The U.S. Justice Department made a move today which can really only be described as boneheaded by striking down Texas’ Voter ID law. Basically, the law would have required people to show a government-issued photo ID before getting a ballot and voting. It really seems simple enough. Show an ID (a legal one) and get to vote. I know Texas law used to allow people who had a valid driver’s license to vote if they showed it (my Mom did it several times).

So what’s wrong with the law? I’m honestly not sure.

The Justice Department says this:

Because we conclude that the state has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the proposed law will not have a retrogressive effect, we do not make any determination as to whether the state has established that the proposed changes were adopted with no discriminatory purpose.

I didn’t realize the law was that restrictive. Looking at the bill’s language is doesn’t seem that way. It does require people to show either a driver’s license, Texas ID card, a US military ID, a Texas conceal-and-carry license or other forms of identification to vote (the full text can be found here). Seems pretty straight-forward.

Houston Senator Rodney Ellis complained during the debate last year that:

Furthermore, study after study has shown that tens of thousands of legally-registered Texas voters do not have a photo ID.

Those same studies show that these voters will be disproportionately minority, poor, disabled or elderly. After six years of debate on this issue, supporters of this radical change have yet to find a single example of voter impersonation that would be combated by this new restriction, yet opponents could point to tens of thousands of legal voters who will be negatively impacted by this law.

Wait what? Don’t have a photo ID? I’m trying to remember if I registered to vote in Texas before I got my driver’s license and I honestly can’t remember (I started to drive when I was 18). But still…it’s not THAT hard to get an ID.

The Texas Department of Public Safety does have requirements. To get a Driver’s License you have to verify your identity with either a US passport, Permanent Resident Card, Temporary Resident Card, Immigrant Visa and foreign passport or US military ID (full requirements here). Then you have to present a Social Security card or complete a Social Security Affidavit which the DMV provides. Don’t have that or sign one, you get a Texas ID card. It’s pretty simple and, at worst, takes an hour or two max. Might kill someone’s lunch break or a vacation day, but if you want to get a driver’s license that’s what you have to do.

So is voter fraud a real problem in Texas? Absolutely!

The most famous example is probably the 1960 election where JFK beat Nixon by 46-thousand votes in an election rife with voter fraud.

From the Washington Post:

In Fannin County, which had 4,895 registered voters, 6,138 votes were cast, three-quarters of them for Kennedy. In one precinct of Angelia County, 86 people voted and the final tally was 147 for Kennedy, 24 for Nixon.

On and on it went. The Republicans demanded a recount, claiming that it would give them 100,000 votes and victory. John Connally, the state Democratic chairman, said the Republicans were just “haggling for headlines” and predicted that a recount would give Kennedy another 50,000 votes.

But there was no recount. The Texas Election Board, composed entirely of Democrats, had already certified Kennedy as the winner.

There are even more recent examples like the February conviction of former Dallas County Justice of the Peace Carlos Medrano for getting a cousin to vote for him in Dallas in 2010, when she lived in Mesquite. Three Jim Wells County residents were convicted of voter fraud in connection with the 2008 election. So it’s obvious Texas has a history both semi-ancient and recent. Would the new voter ID law prevent stuff like this from happening? Definitely in the 1960s case. I think in the Medrano case it might have if the list of addresses were correct. The Jim Wells County one wouldn’t have because it dealt with mail in/absentee ballots. But obviously voter fraud is still an issue.

So why go against the law? Could it be that it ACTUALLY DOES ITS JOB?!?!? I think so.

The issue here, I think, is that the Obama administration is looking to score a political victory with minorities by saying, “Look we’re protecting your votes” when they don’t need to say anything. Minorities who are registered to vote, who have their ID’s, who follow the law have nothing to worry about. Neither do whites who do the same thing.

I’m not going to lob any political bombs here, like the Heritage Foundation kind of does in this op-ed by saying the rejection will allow illegal immigrants to vote. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but I don’t know enough about the DOJ to comment. All I know is rejecting the law makes no sense to me.

-E. Desert



2 Responses to “Texas vs. The Feds On Voting Rights”

  1. 1 Marion

    “Might kill someone’s lunch break or a vacation day, but if you want to get a driver’s license that’s what you have to do.”

    Not everyone has jobs that give them the luxury of a lunch break or a vacation day.

    Additionally, you most likely have to pay a fee for said ID or license. Unfortunately with this economy, some people literally may not have the $30 to get the license on the one day they were allotted two hours to go to the DMV.

    There is a real concern for those who ARE disabled or elderly because if you live in a rural area— where there is a lack of public transportation— and your license has expired, it may be hard to obtain a new one without help. It’s naive to think EVERYONE has someone to lend them a hand to get to the DMV. Polling centers may be closer to one’s house than the county DMV, especially in rural parts of the country.

    Blaming the Obama administration for playing the race card, whether they have or not, doesn’t change the fact that these laws CAN marginalize those who don’t have the same middle class comforts you and I have, ie money for fees, access to a vehicle, money to pay for gas for that vehicle, friends who have cars should yours break down, jobs that allow you time off, and no dependents. Was that the original intention? I try to be optimistic and think not entirely. But I do think you need to look at these issues from the perspective of the people they actually affect— not just the political party opposite of yours— to see all sides.

  2. Texas actually was going to offer free ID cards to people who didn’t quality for a driver’s license.

    If you need to renew your license/ID it can be done either online, over the phone or by mail (if you meet certain requirements). Now if you’re over 79 years of age, Texas requires you to be there in person for driver’s licenses. They don’t say on IDs.

    Texas requires you to renew your license at the age of 62, then it’s every four years after that. Again, you can do it by phone/mail/online.

    And you’re right, not everyone can get help in going to the DMV. But steps have been taken to make sure people can get their driver’s license/ID without going to the DMV.

    I don’t see the problem, especially if Indiana’s similar law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. There’s legal precedence, so why do a 180?


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