Feds Think Texas's Voter ID Law May Be Racist, So the State Sues to Implement It Right Away

Given Texas's dicey history with electoral rights, the Obama Administration has expressed concern in recent months about the state's new Voter ID law, which requires voters to bring government-issued identification to the polls. So the state, naturally, is suing to put the new and allegedly discriminatory law into action. Like, now.

Texas passed its Voter ID law last May, joining a host of states whose legislatures have been cracking down on "voter fraud" -- the act of dead and unregistered and illegal-immigrant and otherwise nefarious voters who, if you believe the fear-mongering that accompanied much of the rhetoric in support of the bills, are conspiring to steal our nation's elections.

Of course, plenty of folks see it differently. They see Republican-controlled legislatures making it more difficult for certain classes of people -- old people, young people and poor people, mostly -- to vote.

Voting-rights advocates argue that the new law, which excludes student IDs but includes gun licenses, will make it more difficult for those people to vote, because they're less likely to have a driver's license or other government ID. Plus, they point out: The kind of voter fraud the law aims to stop -- where people actually cast votes they're not supposed to cast -- is a wildly exaggerated problem. (NYU has done some interesting research on this.)

The Justice Department was able to delay Texas's law taking effect under the Voting Rights Act. It asked Texas to basically prove that the law wouldn't disenfranchise minority voters, even asking for specific statistics about the ethnicity of voters who might not have government-issued IDs. According to the lawsuit, the state did its best -- but not good enough for the feds.

In the meantime, the Justice Department refused to approve South Carolina's similar law. So with so much writing on the wall, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott decided to take the state's fight to federal court, filing a lawsuit earlier today and asking a judge to overrule the Justice Department and allow the law to take effect.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional," Abbott said in a statement. "Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections. To fast-track that authority, Texas is taking legal action in a D.C. Court seeking approval of its voter identification law."

The lawsuit, which you can read here, was filed in DC. It was not presented to the court in the form of a tightly wound scroll fired from the .22 of a wildly cackling Rick Perry, but it totally should have been.

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Joe Tone
Contact: Joe Tone