Texas Voter ID Violates Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, Groups Challenge Law in Federal Court

September 17, 2013

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

Emmanuel Garcia

MALC

956.459.8498

egarcia@malc.org

Beth Huffman

Dechert LLP

215.994.6761

beth.huffman@dechert.com

Daniel Covich

Law Offices of William Bonilla

361.882.8284

daniel@bonillalaw.com

Corpus Christi, TX – Today, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) filed suit in federal court to block the state’s new voter ID law because it erects discriminatory barriers to voting in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

A federal court in Washington, DC last year blocked Texas’s voter ID law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law would make it significantly more difficult for minority citizens in Texas to vote on Election Day. In June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a separate case) ruled the formula used in the Act for specifying the states covered by Section 5 unconstitutional. As a result, Texas is not currently required to comply with the Section 5 pre-clearance provision. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the state would implement the voter ID law.

In the complaint filed today in the Southern District of Texas, the Texas NAACP and MALC argue the voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it makes it harder for hundreds of thousands of minority citizens to vote and denies minority voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. The measure was enacted specifically to exclude these groups, the filing contends, a discriminatory purpose that also violates the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The attorneys representing the civic groups in the case are the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Law Offices of Jose Garza, the national office of the NAACP, Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, PotterBledsoe L.L.P.,  Dechert LLP, and The Law Offices of William Bonilla, P.C.

“Texas’ photo ID law could prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, including a disproportionate number of minorities,” said Myrna PĂ©rez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “The court was right to block this law in 2012, and nothing has changed since then. We urge this court to stand up for voters and ensure elections remain free, fair, and accessible for all eligible citizens.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Unfortunately, we continue to find ourselves in federal court defending this most basic right against Texas’ leadership,” said Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of MALC. “Multiple courts have ruled that Texas has expressed a pattern of discrimination toward its growing minority demographic — from its cumbersome voter identification requirements to its penchant for drawing intentionally discriminatory legislative maps — and I expect that the courts will once again side with Texas voters over hyper-partisan lawmakers.”

“As we all know, Texas has a voter identification law that has already been ruled to be discriminatory by a three-judge panel in Washington D.C.,” stated Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP Texas State Conference. “This law is designed and intended not to counteract nearly non-existent voter fraud, but instead to disenfranchise minority voters. This will continue anti-minority voter dominance by drastically reducing the number of minority votes cast in each election.”

“The Texas photo ID law is the most restrictive voter ID law in the country, and the Texas legislature rejected numerous amendments that would have mitigated its impact,” 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 critical to our democracy,” said Ezra D. Rosenberg of Dechert LLP. “We are thrilled to be part of this team that will fight to protect that right.”

“My grandfather, William Bonilla, the founder of The Law Offices of William Bonilla, P.C., has been involved in the fight for justice for all minorities on numerous issues dating back to the early 1950s,” said William Clay Bonilla of The Law Offices of William Bonilla, P.C. “We are proud to continue this fight and join our brethren in the pursuit of justice for the right to vote for all.”

Read more on the case here.