LWV-TX, ACLU and ACLU of Texas, Advancement Project, Texas Legislative Black Caucus and Civil Rights Activists Seek to Block Texas’ Discriminatory Photo ID Law

Lawsuit Will Defend Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and Protect Minorities’ Right to Vote

WASHINGTON, DC (March 23, 2012) - The League of Women Voters of Texas, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, and the Justice Seekers, a Dallas-based civil rights organization, as well as three African-American registered Texas voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas, Thursday sued to block implementation of Texas’ voter photo ID law.

The motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was to intervene in Texas v. Holder, in which Texas is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Under Section 5 of the federal law, states with a history of discriminatory voting laws – including Texas – must have changes to their voting laws approved, or pre-cleared, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the federal district court in Washington.

“The passage of the Voting Rights Act was brought about with blood, sweat and tears of young people who fought for the right of all people, regardless of race, to vote,” said the Rev. Peter Johnson with Justice Seekers. “The state’s attempt to enforce this discriminatory law is not only an offense to everyone who lost their life during the civil rights movement, but a testament to the fact that the struggle for equal rights, especially in Texas, continues.”

“Our state governments should be in the business of making it easier for citizens to vote, not adding costly restrictions and barriers that will negatively impact all voters,” said Karen Nicholson, President of the League of Women Voters in Texas.

“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has already rejected Texas’ photo ID law because it disproportionately harms minority voters,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws such as this one can be stopped in their tracks before they are implemented and people’s fundamental right to vote is taken away. The court should block this law and uphold the Voting Rights Act – a crucial instrument for ensuring every eligible voter can participate in our democracy.”

“This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century and shows how essential the Voting Rights Act is to allow all Americans their right to vote,” said Advancement Project co director Judith Browne Dianis. “If this bill is allowed to stand it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation’s democracy and deny hundreds of thousands of voters their basic rights.”

Blocking Texas’ discriminatory photo identification law and upholding the Voting Rights Act is crucial for protecting voting rights, the interveners contend. “According to Texas’ own data, registered Latino voters in Texas are anywhere between 46.5% to 120% more likely than non-Latino voters to lack the photo identification to vote under law. This clearly discriminatory law would make it more challenging, if not impossible, for as many as 795,955 registered Latinos to cast their vote in Texas,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director with the ACLU of Texas.

Texas voters currently must show identification at the polls. If the new law takes effect, new discriminatory photo ID requirements would be mandatory. Many IDs with photos now accepted at the polls would not be under the new law, including student IDs from state universities.

“The State of Texas has admitted there is no evidence in Texas of voting irregularities that photo ID would address.” said Nicholson of LWV-TX. ”The expense and difficulty of obtaining one of the limited photo IDs allowed under this law would bring unjustified obstacles that many Texans cannot overcome thus denying citizens their fundamental right of citizenship, the right to vote."

Data provided by the State of Texas shows that hundreds of thousands of Texas voters do not have one of the few photo IDs accepted under this new law and that minority voters would be disproportionately affected by the requirement. Although a photo ID would be available at no charge to voters who lack one of the acceptable photo IDs, obtaining this ID would require documentation, such as a birth certificate, which does have a cost—a birth certificate costs $22.

To read the motion to intervene, go to: http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/texas-v-holder-motion-intervene.

CONTACT:

Linda Krefting, LWV-TX, 806-793-6136, lkrefting@att.net