Voter ID on Trial in Texas
September 08, 2014, 1:00am

In April, a federal judge in Wisconsin invalidated that state’s voter-identification law, finding that it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in a phony attempt to prevent a problem — in-person voter fraud — that does not exist.

Last week, the spotlight turned to the federal court in Corpus Christi, where the Justice Department and several advocacy groups are fighting Texas’ absurdly strict voter-ID law. Passed in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Legislature, the law accepts as proof of identity a concealed-weapon permit but not a student ID card.

Laws like these used to be blocked by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required that the federal government preapprove any voting rules enacted by states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting practices. But in a destructive ruling last year, the Supreme Court rendered Section 5 useless when it struck down Section 4, which set the formula for covered jurisdictions, as unconstitutional.

Only hours after that ruling, Texas resurrected its voter-ID law, which had been stopped by Section 5.

Defenders of voting rights are now using a different part of the Voting Rights Act to challenge such laws, but it is a time-consuming and costly process.

In the Texas suit, testimony has shown that about 1.2 million eligible voters — including disproportionate numbers of lower-income, black and Latino voters, who tend to vote Democratic — lack a photo ID that would allow them to cast a ballot. Some never had the necessary underlying documents, such as a birth certificate; others cannot afford the time or money it takes to track them down.

The lawmakers who insist that this law is needed never bothered to come up with evidence of any voter fraud. One former election official testified that in-person fraud is “almost impossible to do.”

Continue reading the main story

Recent Comments

Jack Nargundkar
8 minutes ago
It would be interesting to go into rich and middle class, suburban communities in Texas and verify if election officials actually check the…

William Case
8 minutes ago
The New York Times Editorial Board deliberately tries to mislead readers by declaring: “Texas says it has made it easier to get a photo ID…

8 minutes ago
Jim Crow 2.0, 2.1, 2.2….If there ever was an issue where the Republican Party has embraced white racism, veiled and unveiled, it is voter…

See All Comments
Write a comment

Texas says it has made it easier to get a photo ID by providing for a free “Election Identification Certificate.” Apparently, Texans haven’t gotten the memo: as of Friday, fewer than 300 people statewide had managed to obtain a certificate.
Continue reading the main story


Of course, voter-ID laws have never been about making voting easier. They are virtually always Republican-led efforts to keep groups of eligible voters who are more likely to vote Democratic from the polls.

The laws’ backers rely on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upholding an Indiana voter-ID law, but at least two of the judges in that case have since admitted they were wrong. Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge who approved the law, said last fall that voter-ID laws were “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” And former Justice John Paul Stevens, who voted with the majority, said that in retrospect the dissent was “dead right.”

Rather than find a way to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Republican lawmakers rig the game with pointless obstacles to voting. The courts are finally catching on, but in the meantime, many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are shut out of the democratic process.