Top Senate Republican Hints Voting Rights Act May Be Held Hostage In Exchange For Voter Suppression

— by Ian Millhiser on Jun 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Tuesday’s decision neutering a key prong of the Voting Rights Act leaves supporters of voting rights in a difficult position. If they do nothing, voter suppression laws can go into effect, and may not be struck down by the courts until after they have succeeded in disenfranchising many voters. Yet the Roberts Court’s decision to hollow out America’s voting rights protections also allows conservatives to exact concessions before the voting rights regime that five Republican justices killed can be restored.

Shortly after the decision, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dropped a hint at just what those concessions could be — give the greenlight to a common GOP-backed voter suppression law, or the heart of the Voting Rights Act is dead forever. In an interview with CBS News, Grassley claimed he is “open to looking at ways to address the issues addressed in the court’s decision.” Yet he added that he believed the Justice Department was wrong to use the act to block “common sense measures such as voter identification laws.”

Voter ID laws are not common sense, and they are exactly the kind of device the Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent. Although Republicans often claim these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud at the polls, such fraud is virtually non-existent. A study of Wisconsin voters found that only 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of in-person voter fraud, meaning that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls.

What voter ID laws do accomplish, however, is removing many low-income voters, students and people of color from the electorate — all of which are groups that tend to vote for Democrats. The entire purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to block laws that suppress voting among racial minorities, so the Justice Department correctly invoked the act to hold up voter ID laws.

Now, however, Grassley’s statement suggests that Republicans could demand that voter ID laws be given an exemption from the Voting Rights Act before the act can be reinstated. In essence, Republicans could block the most effective mechanism of stopping voter suppression laws unless the new voting rights law exempts the GOP’s favorite tactic for suppressing minority votes.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Texas Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court

— By Aviva Shen on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections, “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.

The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable.

The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 14 will “disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law.”

As of the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become the minority in Texas, shrinking to 45.3% of the population from 52.4%, while Latinos accounted for 65% of Texas’s population growth over the past decade.

But Latinos are not the only people hurt by the restrictive bill. People who want to vote but don’t have an ID will have to pay a fee to get one, like Jessica Cohen, whose story ThinkProgress documented in November. After she lost her identification during a robbery, the only way to get a voter ID was to pay a fee to Missouri officials in order to obtain her birth certificate.

On Monday, Texas will defend the law as a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued that “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters.” But the San Antonio Express-News reported that fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

The Texas voter ID law isn’t the first the DOJ has had to combat. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted,

“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”


This material [article] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Source: http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/06/512245/texas-voter-id-law-which-accepts-gun-licenses-but-not-student-ids-challenged-in-court/