Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday, claiming the agency has delayed the approval of a voter ID law.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department or a federal court is required to pre-clear laws affecting voters in jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination, including Texas. The Texas Secretary of State’s Office sought preclearance from the Justice Department on July 25, 2011, but the agency is still holding the matter under review.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional,” Attorney General Abbott said in a statement. “Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections. To fast-track that authority, Texas is taking legal action in a D.C. Court seeking approval of its voter identification law.”
Republicans across the country have pushed for stricter voting regulations, such as voter ID laws, to protect against alleged voter fraud. More than 30 states have changed voter laws since 2008, including requiring voter identification cards, eliminating same-day registration on voting day, prohibiting ex-felons from ballot access, restricting early voting and requiring proof of citizenship.
The Texas Legislature enacted the voter ID law in 2011, requiring voters to show a government-issued photo identification in order to vote at a polling place.
But Democrats argue that voter ID laws are unnecessary due to a complete lack of evidence of any organized voter fraud scheme. They say it unfairly targets low-income, elderly, disabled, and minority voters, who are less likely to have a photo ID — and also tend to support Democrats over Republicans.
“General Abbott knows in-person voter fraud doesn’t exist,” Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Rebecca Acuña said. “He already cost Texas taxpayers $1.4 million on a wild goose chase that turned up no cases of voter impersonation. Our question to General Abbott is, if there are no cases of voter impersonation, then what exactly is this legislation’s purpose? The absolute intent of this law is to disenfranchise voters.”
The Department of Justice has already blocked a voter ID law from taking effect in South Carolina because of concerns that it would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters.