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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Originally posted at The Brad Blog

Greg Abbott, Texas’s attorney general, made a fool of himself recently when he issued his public response to a U.S. Dept. of Justice lawsuit challenging the Texas Republicans’ new polling place Photo ID law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the U.S. Constitution.

The “facts” he publicly offered in the law’s defense were wholly misleading and, worse, plainly inaccurate. But if Abbott thought that was embarrassing, he may have no idea what he’s in store for when he actually shows up in a court of law, seeking to defend the Photo ID law that Texas Republicans enacted in 2011 as part of a desperate attempt to cling to power.

Rapidly shifting voter demographics is quickly working against the Lone Star State’s Republican Party. The numbers are leading them into a panic over an ever-increasing minority population and rising voting rates to go with it. So they have been, since 2005, attempting to squelch the inevitable by trying to tamp down minority turnout any way possible. But Texas Republicans are not only in a battle with demographics. The key facts about the state’s Photo ID restrictions — as already determined in a court of law — are not on their side, either.

In both United States v. Texas, the DoJ’s newly filed legal challenge to the Texas Photo ID restriction law, and in Veasey v. Perry, a separate federal lawsuit filed by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) and later joined by Dallas County, the plaintiffs not only set forth allegations but facts already found to be true last year by a unanimous U.S. District Court panel.

Those already established facts reveal that the state’s Photo ID law (SB 14) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it imposes unreasonable, and often impossible, burdens upon the right of the poor to vote that would likely result in disenfranchisement. The three-judge panel further found, via “undisputed record evidence,” as they described it, that a disproportionate percentage of poor Texans who would be subject to such disenfranchisement are Hispanic and African-American.

At the time, however, despite establishing those uncontested facts, those Constitutional concerns were not the basis of the case in front of the federal court in question. But they are now.

Given the state’s acknowledgment during the previous litigation that it could not contest the facts already on record, the Texas Republicans’ gambit to try and turn back time at the polls, or, at least, slow it down as the demographic clock continues to tick against them, is exceedingly unlikely to work. Here’s why…

Tick, Tick, Tick…

While both of the newly filed federal lawsuits point to the previous judicial finding that the law had a discriminatory purpose and effect, the DoJ provides an especially compelling context in its complaint. It argues that the state’s Photo ID law, is part of a desperate, racially motivated attempt by state Republicans to cling to power in the face of demographic changes that will — if accompanied by unobstructed, small-“d” democratic access to the polls — reduce white voters in Texas, and with them, the TX GOP, to (ironically enough) minority status.

Keep in mind that in the 2012 election, nationally, 71 percent of Latino voters and 93 percent of African-American voters reportedly supported President Barack Obama. Republican Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was said to have won 59 percent of the white vote.

As of 2010, 37.6 percent of all Texans were Hispanic, according to the DoJ complaint. African-Americans accounted for 11.5 percent. While the combined total (49.1 percent) still meant that, in 2010, a majority of the voting population were non-Hispanic whites, as Bob Dylan put it, “the times [here, the demographics], they are a changin’.” Hispanics accounted for 65 percent of the Lone Star State’s population growth between 2000 and 2010. African-Americans accounted for 11.5 percent of that growth. Put another way, during the first decade of the 21st century, Texas’ Hispanic/African-American populations grew at a rate that was more than three times as fast as the growth of the non-Hispanic white population.

The DoJ alleges that, commencing in 2005 — smack dab in the middle of this dramatic demographic sea-change — “the Texas legislature advanced increasingly stringent and burdensome voter ID bills over several legislative sessions,” culminating in the 2011 passage of what, last year, a three-judge U.S. District Court in D.C. found to be the strictest Photo ID law in the nation.

In its lawsuit, the DoJ points to case law establishing that, in determining whether discriminatory intent is present, a court should examine whether a state relied upon “unusual procedures” that would suggest that the nondiscriminatory reasons given for the passage of a law are mere pretext designed to mask invidious discrimination.

Such “unusual procedures” in this case, according to the DoJ, include the fact that SB 14 was passed on an “emergency” basis.

If there was an “emergency” need to pass SB 14, it certainly cannot be found in an epidemic of voter fraud — not when one considers that the only type of voter fraud that can be prevented by polling-place Photo ID laws is in-person impersonation.

In-person impersonation is a phantom menace, in Texas and elsewhere. According to sworn congressional testimony by Loyola law professor Justin Levitt in September of 2011, for instance, there had been just nine (9) possible cases of in-person impersonation out of more than 400 million votes cast at the polls nationwide between 2000 and the time of his testimony before a Senate subcommittee that year.

Last, year, while trying to defend a similar Photo ID law in Pennsylvania — a law they claimed was needed to prevent voter fraud — Republicans entered an in-court admission that they were “not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in-person voter fraud elsewhere.”

The only related “emergency” faced by TX Gov. Rick Perry and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature, since the time they began their years-long efforts at disenfranchisement in 2005, was the inevitable elimination of the ability of the TX GOP to cling to power if every legal voter who wants to vote actually gets to vote in an increasingly adverse demographic landscape for Republicans.

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  • John Pigg

    In general I support verification of a voters identity. But I can also agree that some southern states use this as an issue for electoral advantage. Requiring voter identification isn’t always for partisan gain. I think that elections and voting are important, for that reason I support proof of identification.

    Caveat, being I oppose strengthening voter photo requirements in Southern, and Battleground states. To hell with Texas.

    • johninPCFL

      The problem with most of the photo-ID laws sposored by ALEC is that they are designed to the target the poor and minorities who are away from their place of birth. Getting a BC is two trips back home (assuming the hospital still exists) and then two trips to the state registration location to get the ID card. If the birth hospital is gone, or if they were born at home, the process is longer and still must be accomplished in person. That’s at least four days’ time off from work with no pay. When you’re already living hand-to-mouth, that’s a HUGE burden.
      Nine cases out of 400+ million votes cast suggests, as the article does, that this is nothing more than a bare-knuckles atempt to cling to power using any means necessary.

      • Allan Richardson

        Not to mention the grannies in nursing homes; a trip to get a birth certificate (suppose they live in Florida and were born in Oregon) also implies traveling in an AMBULANCE and having paramedics ride WITH them and wait in state offices WITH them, being ON THE CLOCK the entire trip.

      • John Pigg

        Your points are valid. We can both agree that ALEC is a terrible organization. And knowing that they support this principle really puts me off against it.

        I get where you are coming from with the theoretical example. And with any law or policy there will be some trade offs. In my state you are required to present ID to a cashier whenever purchasing alcohol or spirits. If you do not have ID by law the cashier cannot sell to you. The law makes a choice between trying to decrease minors gaining access to alcohol by strengthening the requirements for purchase. I think voting is more important than buying a 6pack. This is a balance between strengthening voting, and possible voter disfranchisement.

        I honestly believe that we have the institutions, and structures in place to alleviate the inconvenience of getting some form of ID. So for me as long as ID voting is instituted in areas without the desire for partisan advantage, then I support it.

        • johninPCFL

          Unfortunately it’s not a theoretical example. If a BC is a requirement to get a photo-ID, then the BC must be gotten from the birth hospital. If it no longer exists, each state has its own process for recovery. Whether it’s the hospital or other location, all require that you be there in person for the application, and again be there in person to collect the certificate. The ALEC laws are more strict even than this in that most state-issued photo-IDs (like student IDs) are also not useable for voting.
          My birth hospital no longer exists and it took four visits and six months to get a replacement BC. Fortunately I still live in the county in which I was born. The “inconvenience” was very real, and it only cost me a few hours of each day apiece (i.e. no travel expenses) to spend the time.
          The evidence says that hundreds of thousands of minors out of millions try to fake an ID, but dozens of folks out of hundreds of millions fake voting. The number of in-person voting fraud over the last decade is under a dozen. “Strengthening voting” is not the intent of any of these laws. The incidence of fraud is too low to be anything but a rounding error in the statistics. The new NC laws also move student voting places off college campuses to locations that have effectively no parking, and simultaneously consolidate them into precincts with a much higher number of voters than the surrounding GOP-dominant precincts. Students and the poor more often vote Democrat, so the laws’ intents seems pretty clear.

          • John Pigg

            In Indiana you can apply for your Birth Certificate by mail. If you did not receive a copy of your birth certificate when you were born, then its possible to get another method of ID approved by the Indiana BMV.

            I am perfectly willing to admit that in North Carolina the desires and motives behind this law are highly suspect.

            I am also willing to admit that voter fraud is a red herring and instances of it are highly low. But can’t we both agree that it would be hard to detect “voter fraud” if we don’t require voters to prove their identity? ()

            I am of the opinion that in some states this is strengthening the institution of voting, and moving it above board. I do not think it is too much to ask to present a photo ID for verification of your identity.

            As to moving voting booths off campus, that is shady. There is a clear distinction in my mind between northern and western states who are strengthening voting, and battleground-states and the south.

            In Indiana we offer the ID free if you can provide documentation. I also think that if you contacted any Party leader they would personally help you meet the requirements to vote.

          • ” can’t we both agree that it would be hard to detect “voter fraud” if we don’t require voters to prove their identity?”

            No. Because federal law (Help America Vote Act) ALREADY requires that those who do not register in person must present ID when voting at the polls for the first time. Registration is the time to assure a voter is who they say they are, and that already happens.

            Photo ID restrictions are meant as nothing more than to KEEP legal, legitimate voters (you know which ones), from being able to cast their legal vote. Period.

          • John Pigg

            It is completely plausible to suggest that without verification of ID that it would be difficult to detect voter fraud.

            Thanks for telling me about the Federal regulations I was unfamiliar with them. I did work as an election board sheriff both before and after the policy change. There was no indication, or mark for a new voter that we should verify their identity. A great many aid organizations and groups register a great many people to vote, this is a good thing. But local level officials do not have the manpower or resources to validate the people who are registered.

            I have no problem admitting that in NC, or TX this law is intended to disenfranchise. But I think its a good policy for my state and I support it. But I oppose it in any battle ground state, and in any southern state.

          • johninPCFL

            I’m glad Indiana offers these other mechanisms. Most states do not.
            Setting new voting requirements during years that no elections take place would be the time to change the laws. Changing them within months of an election has only one purpose – disenfranchising a group of voters.
            The “identity proof” that was necessary, literally for centuries, was having some state-issued document delivered to your declared home address with you when you registered to vote. Now suddenly, and only since the GOP began to lose its grip on the electorate, this is no longer enough.
            So, to directly target your point, you have to steal someone’s mail and then commit federal voter fraud to vote as someone else. Out of a thousand or so voters in a typical precinct, you choose to commit two federal crimes to add your voice at the 0.1% or smaller level? It’s happened, provably, once per year for the last decade. Does that justify spending (literally) millions of dollars changing the voting laws and answering the legal challenges? Sure – but only if the electorate is moving away from your positions at warp speed.

          • John Pigg

            Changing the requirements months before the election is blatantly wrong.

            You are right that presently voter fraud is not an issue. But I see nothing wrong with it as long as the state does not have a long history of voter disenfranchisement, is not a battle ground state, and has mechanisms in place to ensure that voters have no problems obtaining their documents.

            But I think it is worth the cost to strengthen the institution. I personally think that voting is worth showing ID. But like you I have a problem with anyone who enacts this policy for partisan advantage.

          • John Pigg
    • MonicaR62

      Pennsylvania isn’t in the South and tried to pass a Voter Suppression law.

      • John Pigg

        I also oppose its enactment in Battleground states. Where there could be a chance that it is used for partisan gain.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    If a photo ID is not issued to the voter when he or she registers to vote, the requirement to add a voter photo ID is also an added burden that could be argued with the 24th Amendment as root cause, in addition to the 14th.

    • Allan Richardson

      That is a very good point, especially when, as some states tried last year, the law is enacted DURING an election campaign season, not leaving enough time for those without the new ID, even if they do NOT have a problem getting one, to get one IN TIME for the election.

      One condition that should be imposed on voter ID laws passing muster as Consitutionally valid should be that they take effect two years AFTER the next election (which would give voters who are affected a chance to vote against the lawmakers who passed the law, in hopes of replacing them with lawmakers pledging to repeal it). Another and even more important should be to GRANDFATHER (or GRANDMOTHER) in long-time voters whose birth records were lost, making it impossible to get the required new ID EVER, and to provide ALL NECESSARY FUNDING to get the new documents if possible (including birth certificate fees, transportation to the state offices if needed, EVEN if that is in another state, and for voters requiring constant nursing care, an ambulance and two paramedics to accompany the voter on all necessary trips, INCLUDING wait time. In other words, it should not cost a voter ONE DIME OUT OF POCKET to get the new ID card IN TIME to vote; these voters got all the documents that were needed to vote when they FIRST STARTED, and should not have to pay to get the newly required documents.

      Oh, and a loss-of-civil-rights PENALTY from the state to the voter, say $100K, if the voter is turned away due to the state’s delay in helping the voter, essentially, to RE-register.

  • Allan Richardson

    Ironically, non-Hispanic white people were a minority who were legally admitted across the border into the Mexican state of Tejas (pronounced TEH-hass) and promised to be peaceful, law-abiding Mexican citizens. Instead, they became a majority and fought the Mexican army to become a separate nation. Then they joined the US, then seceded to join the CSA, then were “reconstructed” into the US again.

    So, if Hispanics become a majority (or a plurality) in Texas again, it would be poetic justice. Maybe THEY will ask to be re-annexed back into Mexico, which would be good news and bad news for the rest of us. Good news: no more Lyndon Johnsons or George W. Bushes (and no Ted Cruz) in the future. Bad news: a LOT LONGER border to guard; NASA’s Mission Control in a foreign country (Putin could sympathize with that situation), Mexico joining OPEC, passports to go from the Southeast to California on I-10 or US-66, etc. But for the non-Hispanic white bigots who ARE in Texas, it would be a NIGHTMARE.

  • latebloomingrandma

    I only read 1 page of this article, as I have been having immense trouble with this site. I keep getting the prompt that NM is not responding due to long running script, and then the computer freezes up. I hope they soon fix it, or I will not be able to waste any more time getting on my favorite liberal site. Most articles I can’t even access.
    Having said that, I think most cases of “voter fraud” in the past have been from stuffing ballot boxes, fraud during the counting of absentee ballots, and currently, incidents of hacking into computerized voting machines. None of which would be solved by photo ID’s and disenfranchising voters.

    • Pamby50

      I was having that problem last week. I stopped going through Internet Explorer and changed to google chrome. Not having any problems now.

    • John Pigg

      Works fine for me, but like Pamby50 I also use Google Chrome. Do you think it could be your browser?

  • Bill Mohon

    Perry and Abbott THINK they can continue to fool MOST of the people MOST of the time-
    Their “Gerrymandering Map Games” and their “Photo ID” (when there is no TRUE voter fraud) ideas are what’s been going on in Texas for decades (even centuries)

  • DurdyDawg

    I’m so ashamed of my home state.. The Pubs have absolutely corrupted it ever since they took over when stupid citizens decided they had had enough of democracy.. True, the Dems basically played the same game but they also advocated for the voters, the poor and the middle class. The Pubs believe it was they who voted them into office, that the populace had nothing to do with it and maybe they were right what with their ability to gerry rig in almost every faucet of politics. Now it’s time to return to a more humane existence but until then I will stay far away.

  • medford_resident

    dear leftist shills, you can’t buy a house, rent an apartment, buy, rent, or lease a car, collect welfare or foodstamps, cash a check, open a bank account, collect unemployment or do any of the things it takes to LIVE in this country without ID. The lie that people are being disenfranchised is just that, a lie. Show me the person not doing any of the above and you’ll have a point. Otherwise, you’re a lying shill for the left.