Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday launched another public rebuke of President Barack Obama’s administration, filing a suit in court seeking quick implementation of the state's new voter identification law.
The law, which requires voters to show photo identification before casting ballots in elections, is on hold as the U.S. Department of Justice determines its compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act seeks to prevent the disenfranchisement of minority voters in states with a history of discrimination.
Abbott is now trying to fast-track the law, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, by asking a federal panel of judges to give it the go ahead. He suggests in court documents that the Department of Justice is stalling and could ultimately reject the state’s voter identification legislation as it did in South Carolina.
In South Carolina’s case, the Department of Justice said the law discriminated against minorities who had higher numbers of voters without photo identification than their white counterparts.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional,” Abbott said in a statement, referring to states that are not subject to the Voting Rights Act. “Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections.”
Democrats and Republicans in the state have long battled over the passage of laws that require photo identification at the polls. The measure— requiring voters to show a driver's license, state-issued personal ID card, military ID, U.S. passport, citizenship certificate, or concealed handgun license—sailed through the Texas legislature last year after Republican lawmakers established large majorities in the House and Senate.
Voters, who are considered disabled by the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs, are exempt from providing photo identification.
The law provides free state-issued “election identification certificates” to Texans who say they need one to vote. It also allows voters to cast a provisional ballot without photo identification but they would have to return in six days with proof. Otherwise, their ballots would not be counted.
Supporters of the law say it curbs fraud in elections and simply requires voters to show a photo at the polls just as they would when writing a check.
Opponents say proof of widespread voter fraud does not exist. They argue that the measure suppresses the votes of poor and minority voters who do not have photo identification.
The Department of Justice, which received Texas’ request that it clear the voter ID law in July, has twice sought a breakdown of minority voters with and without state-issued photo identification.
State Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, called the voter ID law and the latest legal action by the attorney general a “waste of taxpayer money” and an example of “bigger government.”
Gonzalez, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez and state Reps. Marisa Marquez and Inocente “Chente” Quintanilla—all Democrats--voted against the law. State Reps. Dee Margo, R-El Paso, and Joe Pickett, a democrat, supported the measure.
“Part of the reason the DOJ is requesting information and has not implemented our specific law is there is a gross lack of detail on how exactly Texas is going to implement this voter ID law,” Gonzalez said.