Could Texas Become a Swing State?
Illustration by Blake Jones
A look at how proposed voter ID legislation is attempting to silence the minority vote
By Amanda Hart
This past month a Federal District Court, along with a little help from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thankfully struck down the recently passed Texas voter ID law, SB 14. The law would have required voters to show a government-issued identification to be able to cast a ballot this election cycle. A letter from the Justice Department to the state of Texas clearly outlines why Texas can’t have nice things, “We conclude that the total number of registered voters who lack a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS could range from 603,892 to 795,955. The disparity between the percentages of Hispanics and non-Hispanics who lack these forms of identification ranges from 46.5 to 120.0 percent. That is, according to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification. Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant.”
The three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia stated in their ruling, “The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that—at least to our knowledge—is the most stringent in the country. That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is really what saved Texas voters this election cycle. According to Section 5 under the act, Texas must obtain clearance from the Justice Department’s civil rights division or a federal court prior to any changes being allowed in regards to elections. The reason for the section in the act is due to the racist history that the South established in its past. Many states in the South have a history of discriminating against minorities at the polls and due to this history we must seek permission from the justice department before any changes can be made. According to the Associated Press, “An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school found that 11 percent of Americans lack a government-issued photo ID such as a passport, driver’s license, state ID card or military ID. Nine percent of whites don’t have such ID, compared with 25 percent of blacks and 16 percent of Hispanics.” It would appear that Section 5 of the act could predict the future quite well. I mean, we are attempting to enact a variation of racist laws that would do nothing but suppress the minority vote.
Luckily the ruling was handed down so close to election day that our state rulers will have to wait till the next election cycle to attempt to silence Texas voters. The American Civil Liberties Union has estimated that 1.5 million voters in Texas could be kept from casting a ballot once the law is allowed to take effect. According to the ACLU, this will have a devastating impact on minority voters as well as college students, the elderly, and economically-disadvantaged populations.
Our attorney general, Greg Abbott, vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. In a statement issued the day of the ruling Mr. Abbott contested, “The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld Voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box. Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana – and were upheld by the Supreme Court. The State will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we are confident we will prevail.” It would appear, based on this statement, that Mr. Abbott is confused by the term “election integrity.” I think what he meant to say was “voter disenfranchisement.” And leave it to Rick Perry to always have something ‘insightful’ to say. The day of the ruling he released this in a statement, “Chalk up another victory for fraud. Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections.” Careful Texas, the courts might just give Perry another reason to threaten secession.
Republicans across the country are masking their attempts to disenfranchise the minority vote by claiming that voter fraud is running rampant in our country. A claim that no matter how high of a mountain top they yell it from is just not backed up by any form of valid proof. A measly five formal voting complaints involving voter impersonation were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from 2008 to 2010. And nationwide since 2007, only 120 charges and 86 convictions were documented. These numbers simply do not justify putting 1.5 million Texans at risk of not being allowed to vote.
The United States Attorney General Eric Holder told the N.A.A.C.P. that the Texas law’s requirements were no different than a poll tax. This is also what the three judge panel was highly concerned with when they handed down their verdict. Economically-disadvantaged populations should not be burdened with the costs of acquiring a birth certificate or be forced to travel hundreds of miles, as in some cases in rural parts of Texas, just to acquire proper identification to vote. Texas lacks a driver’s license office in a third of its counties. And interestingly enough, while Texas lawmakers claim they are willing to foot the bill for people to acquire proper identification, they consistently vote against extending office hours or offering weekend hours, effectively making it incredibly difficult for the working class to be able to get the proper identification.
The effects that voter I.D. laws could have on the youth vote is also being analyzed. According to Cathy Cohen, a University of Chicago expert on young and minority voters, “Our estimates are conservative. We are looking at demobilization from 9 to 25 percent. If young people really have valid IDs at a rate of only 25 or even 50 percent, the number of young people of color disenfranchised will be even greater than what we estimate.” According to their findings it is estimated that the voter identification laws currently being enacted across the country could potentially disenfranchise, “475,000 young black voters, 250,000 young Hispanic voters, 46,000 Asian-American voters, 6,400 young Native American voters, and 2,700 young Pacific Islander voters.”
The conservative white men who run our state seem to be highly concerned with allowing non-whites to exercise their right to vote. It might have something to do with political analyst citing that as early as 2020 we could see Texas turn blue. The Republican stronghold in Texas has plagued us for decades. I mean, we did elect Rick Perry to govern our state now for the last 12 years. The Hispanic population in Texas is causing Republicans in Texas to hyperventilate. According to the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy research and educational institute, over 2 million voting-age Latinos are not registered to vote in Texas. And with the Hispanic population only expected to continue to grow, you begin to understand why our white legislators are really attempting to disenfranchise minority voters at the polls. Well, mainly because they aren’t the minority anymore and have the numbers and ability to remove these bastards from office. The future of Texas is looking brighter and brighter.
Reminder: Don’t forget to bring your voter registration certificate to the polls. If you have lost your little yellow card here are some other forms of ID that are considered acceptable identification: driver’s license, state-issued identification card, birth certificate, passport, paycheck or a utility bill with your name and address on it. Early voting will be held October 22nd through November 2nd so if long lines are not your thing be sure to hit the polls early. If you can’t make it out early be sure to get to the polls on November 6th. You can check your voting status and polling location information online at www.VoteTexas.gov.
by Amanda Hart