Rights groups join challenge to Texas Voter ID law

Rights groups join challenge to Texas Voter ID law

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[JURIST] The Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) and the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) [advocacy websites] on Tuesday filed a complaint [text, PDF] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] challenging Texas’ voter ID law [SB 14 text] as unconstitutionally discriminatory. The law, they claim [AP report] violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text, PDF], as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments [text]. The groups are joining the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] in their challenge to the law. They claim that the requirement of a photo ID to vote is discriminatory against poor minorities and those in rural areas. The law’s supporters claim that, since the ID’s are available for free, it does not impose a sufficient barrier to voting to render the law unconstitutional.

The controversial SB 14 passed [press release] the Texas Legislature [official website] in 2011 and has remained a contentious voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] issue ever since. In August the DOJ filed [JURIST report] their petition against the law. The DOJ rejected the Texas law [JURIST report] shortly after it came into effect in April 2012, noting that SB 14 would have a disproportionate impact on the state’s Latino voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory. The charge came only a month after Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez sent a letter on behalf of the DOJ [JURIST report] claiming that the law violated Section 5 of the VRA. In December, a three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted permission [JURIST report] to Texas officials to immediately appeal its August ruling [JURIST report] rejecting a SB 14, which stated that the retrogressive effect within the law necessarily invalidated it under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).