Does the Texas Voter ID Law Discriminate Against Blacks, Hispanics?
Rosa Ramirez, The National Journal – [...] The Texas voter-identification law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, requires voters to show one of four types of accepted identifications to cast a ballot: a driver’s license, military identification card, U.S. citizenship certificate that contains a photograph, or a gun permit.
Those who lack a driver’s license, passport, or military identification can get a voter-identification card for free from the state’s Public Safety Department, according to the attorney general of Texas’s website. But even if Texans can get the card for free, some of them would need to travel more than 100 miles, sometimes in extreme weather, each way. Martinez Fischer said that 70 counties have no DPS office. “These folks, very few of them have cars, have reliable cars, [or] can get off work,” state Sen. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, said in his testimony.
Martinez Fischer, a leading critic of the law, said the state showed little evidence that rampant in-person voter fraud has taken place. Since the 2008 and 2010 elections, there have been two cases of voter impersonation. One of those cases, he said, raised a question about whether the person had themens rea, or her state of mind, to commit voter fraud. He charged legislators with passing the law based on one criminal prosecution at the expense of thousands.
Representatives for the states, however, insist that voter-identification requirements are needed to protect the integrity of the ballot. Republican state Rep. Jose Aliseda has said there’s a public perception of fraud. “They do not have confidence in the system. They take the position, ‘Why vote if my vote’s going to be canceled out by a fraudulent vote?’ ” Aliseda told NPR last week. Sen. Tommy Williams, who supports the law, testified that his grandfather died in 1935, but ballots continued to be cast in his name.
As to how many Texans will be affected, those numbers remain to be seen. Both sides have charged the other with presenting “flawed” data to gauge the extent of the impact.
The Justice Department argues the number involves about 1.5 million people. But Texas officials say that number is highly inflated, with the truer count closer to 795,000. “No matter whose side you want to believe … we can at least say there will be Texans impacted—we know that,” Martinez Fischer said.