The Justice Department today blocked Texas’s new voter ID law, which is among the toughest in the country, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, noting that “over 600,000 registered voters do not have either a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by [the Department of Public Safety]—and that a disproportionate share of those registered voters are Hispanic.”
The data provided by the state of Texas on two different occasions shows that Hispanic voters are more likely than white voters to lack the ID now required to cast a ballot. The law was clearly intended to benefit Republicans; for example, a handgun permit is considered an acceptable form of ID but a university ID is not.
That really says something about what the state of Texas values.
For those voters who lack the proper ID, obtaining the correct documentation can be a difficult task. Texas is required to provide a free ID to voters, but an applicant must possess supporting documentation in order to qualify. “If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate,” DOJ writes. That expenditure can be rightly construed as a poll tax, which the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited.
Moreover, getting that ID from the DMV is not as easy as you’d think. Hispanics in Texas are twice as likely as whites to not have a car. There are DMV offices in only eighty-one of the state’s 254 counties. Not surprisingly, counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the right ID. “During the legislative hearings, one senator stated that some voters in his district could have to travel up to 176 miles roundtrip in order to reach a driver’s license office,” wrote DOJ.
So, you get a "free" ID, but the cost of obtaining that free ID is pretty high. Paying for a pricey birth certificate, and taking the time off from work to travel hundreds of miles to the DMV is expensive. It seems likely that it's intended to keep folks from getting the "free" ID.
The state hasn't publicized the new law to make voters aware of it, nor have they trained poll workers to handle the changes brought about by the new law.
Meanwhile, the push for Voter ID laws continues around the country. The legislatures in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and NH will all be voting soon on ID laws.
And just to point this out, while Texans can used a concealed handgun permit as an ID at the voting booth, that's not cheap either:
A new permit costs $140, discounted to half price ($70) for seniors and the indigent.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org