Texas Hiding The Truth About Voter ID

By Kirsten Gray, Texas Democratic Party Communications Director

Recently, we described the shameful Republican scheme to disenfranchise Latinos and other voters. Governor Rick Perry’s “emergency” photo voter ID legislation, passed this year with Republican support, requires voters to present photo identification at the ballot box. While billed by the GOP as necessary for our elections, the bill is a solution in search of a (nonexistent) problem – and convenient red meat to excite Perry’s far-right supporters.

In recent days, the U.S. Department of Justice requested critical information from the Texas Secretary of State (headed up by a Rick Perry appointee) before it will agree to pre-clear the Republican bill under the Voting Rights Act. The SOS was unwilling to even try to provide the info requested: a breakdown, by race, of the voters who lack the required ID and who could be disenfranchised by the voter ID bill.

We’ve investigated further and uncovered a disturbing and seemingly deliberate attempt by the State to try to hide the fact that this legislation is discriminatory. We looked at the data they sent to the DOJ and the most important piece of information was left out: the percentage of those registered voters who lack photo ID who are Hispanic.

In terms of data, all that the SOS sent was the percentage of registered voters without ID who are Hispanic as a percentage of the total number of registered voters in the county.  As just one example, in Jim Hogg County that percentage is 11%, which doesn’t seem like a lot.  However, when those same Hispanic voters are calculated as a percentage of the total registered voters without ID (the total number of voters likely to be disenfranchised), we find that 92.4% of the voters likely to be disenfranchised in Jim Hogg County are Hispanic. That’s a huge difference and paints a terrifying picture of the impact of this voter ID law on Hispanic voters.

County by county we can see the difference, and it all adds up to shell games and obfuscation from the SOS to try to hide the fact that this law is discriminatory.  The numbers plainly show that in at least 46 Texas counties, over half the voters who do not have ID are Hispanic.  Further, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, only 25% of eligible voters in Texas are Hispanic.  Meanwhile, Hispanics make up 29% of the voters likely to be disenfranchised because they lack ID. Clearly the legislation has a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters.

Not only has the State of Texas not met the burden of proof required under the Voting Rights Act for this legislation to be pre-cleared, there is concrete evidence that the legislation disproportionately abridges the right to vote of minority voters. Democrats will continue to fight against pre-clearance of this discriminatory Republican attempt to keep Hispanic voters at home on Election Day.

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