Texas NAACP, Mexican American Legislative Caucus Urge Court to Reject Restrictive Photo ID Law

March 12, 2012

Civic Groups File Motion to Stop Law That Would Disenfranchise Voters, Hold Media Briefing Call at 1:30 p.m. CST

For Immediate Release: March 12, 2012

Contact:

Erik Opsal

Brennan Center for Justice

646.292.8356

erik.opsal@nyu.edu

Stacie Royster

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

202.662.8317

sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org

Derek Turner

NAACP National

202.463.2940x3383

dturner@naacpnet.org

Martin Golando

MALC

210.737.7200

martin.golando@gmail.com

Beth Huffman

Dechert LLP

215.994.6761

beth.huffman@dechert.com

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) moved to intervene in federal court to stop the state’s restrictive photo ID law and to defend the Voting Rights Act.

The two civic groups argue the law erects unnecessary barriers to voting and disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, one of our nation’s most important pieces of civil rights legislation.

The move comes the same day the Justice Department announced its objection to the Texas law, after determining the law would have a discriminatory effect on minority voters.

The attorneys representing the civic groups in the case are the Brennan Center for Justice, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the national office of the NAACP, Dechert LLP, and the Law Office of Jose Garza.

The two groups, along with co-counsel, will hold a media teleconference at 1:30 p.m. CST. Members of the media can call in at 1-800-398-9367 and give the title “MALC Voter ID Teleconference.”

“Texas’ photo ID law could prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, including a disproportionate number of minorities,” said Myrna Pérez, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. “Decades ago, our nation passed the Voting Rights Act to combat this kind of discrimination. We urge the federal court to stand up for voters by blocking this law.”

Under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, changes to Texas’ election laws must be “pre-cleared” by the Department of Justice or a D.C. federal court before they can be implemented. To obtain pre-clearance in this case, Texas must demonstrate that its voter ID law does not discriminate against minority voters. Today the Department of Justice announced it would not pre-clear the voter ID law.

The Texas NAACP and MALC argue that the new voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act and cannot be pre-cleared. The data provided by the state demonstrate that a disproportionate number of minority voters currently lack the requisite identification needed under the new law to vote. The state has provided no information suggesting this disparity would not continue.   

“As the nation's oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus, MALC has been on the frontlines battling Texas' discriminatory practices and policies. Simply put, this voter identification law disenfranchises the minority community,” said Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of MALC. “Should this legislation ever see the light of day, it would immediately become the strictest voter qualification law since the poll tax. Worse yet, photo identification requirements for voters drastically affect the electoral participation of the poor, the elderly, and the transient, which means those who need their government's ear most will be the last to be heard.”

“It is essential that we join together and stop the implementation of the voter identification law passed by the State of Texas,” stated Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP Texas State Conference. “There are enough laws on the books in Texas to deal with the infrequent incidents of improper voting that have occurred over the years. This new law is a clear-cut attempt to suppress minority votes and stymie minority participation in our democracy, which is the same problem we confront with redistricting. These matters clearly illustrate why it is so important that the Voting Rights Act maintain its viability.”

“The proponents of Texas' law falsely claim that it is fair and simple to require every voter to produce photo ID, and that elections will be corrupted without it,” said Bob Kengle, co-director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "The evidence will show that large numbers of eligible voters in Texas lack photo ID, that the burden of obtaining photo ID will fall more heavily on minority citizens, and that voter impersonation fraud does not occur at polling places because the existing laws effectively deter it.”

“Ensuring that there is no abridgement of minority voters’ right to exercise their franchise is a critical purpose of the Voting Rights Act,” said Ezra D. Rosenberg of Dechert LLP. “We are thrilled to be part of this team that will fight to protect that right.”

Texas originally sought pre-clearance from the Justice Department in July 2011. However, because the state did not provide enough evidence to determine the law’s impact on minority voters, the Department requested additional information in November 2011. Texas provided some information in early January, but today the Justice Department determined the state failed to show that the photo ID requirement does not discriminate. The Texas attorney general has sued in federal court seeking preclearance.

If the civic groups prevail, the Court will not allow implementation of the law.

Texas’ voter ID law is just one in a wave of restrictive voting measures that passed in 2011. Together, these laws could make it harder for up to 5 million people to vote this November, according to the Brennan Center’s report Voting Law Changes in 2012.

Read our intervention motion and memorandum in support.

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