The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the protections that the federal government was providing to voters in states with a history of racial discrimination last June. The guarantee was that all election changes those states made needed prior authorization from the Justice Department.
A federal court in Corpus Christi, Texas is now trying to reverse the federal ruling. It is challenging the legality of laws that Gov. Rick Perry enacted three years ago, which established a requirement to present a photo ID to vote.
The law was very selective regarding which IDs would be accepted. For example, a concealed handgun license was acceptable, but not a student ID. This gave an advantage in going to the polls to a group that is demographically more conservative and white.
Texas Republican lawmakers approved the new election requirement in order to protect “election integrity” and combat “overwhelming” election fraud.
In reality, 60 cases of election fraud were detected in the past five years in Texas. Only one or two involved a voter who was impersonating someone else.
What the law does is make it harder for almost 1.2 million Texans to vote since, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, they lack the necessary documentation. Among them are half a million Latinos and 180,000 African Americans.
The lawsuit started by LULAC and the Texas NAACP has federal support as a way to revert the court decision that watered down the civil rights section of the Voter Rights Act.
This case could have a major impact on several states and cities that were under federal supervision and are taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to make changes similar to the ones in Texas. It is also more important because Congress lacks agreement to legislatively correct the court’s decision.
The most serious voter fraud problems involve absentee voting. Focusing exclusively on identification documents at the polls shows that lawmakers are interested in excluding voters and not in protecting the integrity of the process.