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Justice Department Changes Its Position in Texas Voter ID Case

February 28, 2017

Statement by Page Gardner, President and Founder, Voter Participation Center

When academics writing for the Washington Post recently investigated the impact of voter identification laws nationwide, they confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in politics: Voter ID laws suppress minority voting.

That’s why we were alarmed yesterday to learn that the Justice Department has now changed course regarding one of the most restrictive state voter ID laws in years. Dropping its long-standing position that Texas intended to discriminate when it passed a strict voter ID law, the Trump Administration’s Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a motion yesterday stating that the department sought to “dismiss the discriminatory purpose claim” for the case. That’s legal speak for “We no longer believe the Texas law is intentionally racially discriminatory.”

The Texas law requires that voters present a driver’s license, military ID, or passport to cast a ballot. And while it allows voters to present a weapons permit to engage in our democracy, it rules out a valid student ID. The Texas law clearly is targeting young people and people of color, and trying to make it harder for them to vote. That’s why several courts have found the Texas law to be unconstitutional.

When President Trump declared, with no evidence, that millions of people had voted illegally last year and cost him the popular vote, we were concerned that Trump would use the faux controversy to justify additional restrictions on voters. And now we’re seeing it first-hand. The Texas voter ID law discriminates against minorities and millennials, period. As the Washington Post analysis recently found, voter ID laws mean lower turnout for people of color: “Turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states… These laws have a disproportionate effect on minorities, which is exactly what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to have valid photo ID.” 

Attorney General Sessions‘s first major act of office could easily prevent hundreds of thousands of legal voters from casting a ballot. Why? A federal court in Texas previously found that 608,470 registered voters did not have the IDs that the state required for voting. This blatant discrimination against African-Americans, Hispanics, and young people is unacceptable and needs to be thwarted.

Regardless of whether you live in Texas or elsewhere, make sure you can participate in our democracy. Register to vote today.

 

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