Feds Block Texas Voter ID Law

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected Texas' voter ID law, which would require all residents to present photo identification at the polls. Voters would need to acquire a driver's license, a state-issued ID card, a military ID or a passport. A concealed handgun license would also fit the bill.

Despite the number of eligible documents, the Justice Department believes the legislation would have a discriminatory impact on Hispanic voters. They are between 46.5% and 120% more likely than non-Hispanic voters to lack identification, according to state data.

This is relevant because Texas is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Because of its history of segregation and racial discrimination, the state must prove that all new voting laws do not have a discriminatory effect on minorities. Texas must submit all voting changes to the D.C. District Court or the Justice Department for clearance.

In addition to the above statistic, the Justice Department denied clearance because of how difficult it would be for Hispanic voters to obtain valid identification. Writing to the state's election officials, the federal government explained that voters without IDs would need to travel to a DMV.

This doesn't sound too difficult, but it may be. Approximately 7.3% of Hispanic households in Texas have no vehicle, compared with 3.8% of non-Hispanic white households. Texas has also shuttered DMV locations in 81 counties. In those counties, 14.6% of Hispanic voters have no form of state-issued identification.

Based on these statistics alone, Texas' voter ID law appears to have a discriminatory impact on Hispanic voters, the Justice Department found.

State election officials predicted this outcome, seeing as how the Justice Department also rejected South Carolina's voter ID law in December. Texas officials have already filed suit, which means the fate of Texas' voter ID law is now in the hands of the courts.

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