Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Texas Voter ID

In last year’s legislative session, Texas passed a law similar to laws in other states requiring a photo ID for voting, in an attempt to reduce voter fraud. I havewritten about some of the voter fraud that has actually happened, that could have been prevented with a photo ID. I am strongly in favor of free and fair elections and have worked toward that end, volunteering as a poll watcher several times.

Texas is, unfortunately, subject to the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Texas is required to get federal approval for any changes in voting law and redistricting. I was not a Texan then, but the purpose was to prevent certain southern states from being able to prevent legal voting because of racism. That was 48 years ago. It may be that there were incidents of racist voter prevention back then; the state was solidly Democrat at that time. But now, while certain little pockets of racism still exist (among rural, older, less educated citizens), racism is simply not tolerated publicly or privately anywhere I associate. So, in essence, I believe such an act is outdated, unnecessary, and illegally discriminatory against Texas and the other sovereign states listed in the Act.
Today, subjecting all voting law changes and redistricting to federal review means subjecting ourselves to the racist discrimination of Eric Holder’s (and Obama’s) Department of Justice. It’s no surprise that they would be against Voter ID; they were the ones who refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers for several incidents of voter intimidation and violence since 2008. Their logic? Blacks can’t be considered racist, so anything they do is legal. (Read J. Christian Adams’ book Injustice.)
The claim about the Texas Voter ID is that legally registered Hispanic voters are unduly burdened, because they are less likely to have a photo ID, particularly in rural areas.
I’m suspicious of that assessment. In order to live in a rural area, driving just to a grocery store is a significant distance. Legal voters, we are to believe, live in the middle of nowhere, with no access to public or private transportation, and have no need to cash a check, get a library card, use a credit card, or fly on a plane—ever. And we are to believe this creates such a huge burden for such large numbers of Hispanics that even offering free state photo IDs cannot and will not solve the issue.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has already filed a lawsuit to fight the ruling, so that it goes up to a higher level court. I admire Mr. Abbott and generally see him as fighting strongly for Texas interests. I hope he is doing that in this case. However, yesterday, Christian Adams made suggestions for an approach to the fight the DOJ. He says the point of attack should be the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Adams believes that both that section of the law and the way it is applied is unconstitutional. He believes Texas didn’t go far enough in stressing that point when coming up against the redistricting question, and can only show it’s seriousness on the Voter ID law by attacking on the unconstitutionality of the law.
The use of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to block Texas voter ID is, in fact, unconstitutional. The Voting Section used statistical exaggerations and misapplication of the law to justify the objection. Why wouldn’t Texas challenge the constitutionality of the action against Texas?
Adams also points out that other states (Florida and Arizona) have used the unconstitutionality argument in their defense, and the DOJ has essentially folded. So there is no danger of political repercussions based on fear of the DOJ. Adams adds,
Had Texas filed a lawsuit in April 2011 to have voter ID approved, and challenged the constitutionality of Section 5 in the complaint, voter ID would now be in place in Texas. Instead, it is unlikely to be effective even by November 2012—unless Texas challenges the constitutionality of Section 5. Then approval will come faster.
This is one of those times when Texas needs to remember that we are the only state in the US that was once a sovereign nation; we joined the United States on the promise that the Constitution would protect our freedoms. Texas needs to stand firm—now and always.

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