Saturday, July 14, 2012

Texas' voter ID law: Is it discriminatory?

I voted early in Tennessee and had to show a voter ID. Somehow, the state has escaped the wrath of the Department of Justice. Eric Holder in his speech to the NAACP in Houston said regarding Texas’ voter ID law “Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.” Holder also said that nationally “only 8 percent of white voting age citizens, while 25 percent of African-American voting age citizens” lack a government-issued photo identification card. However, he did not mention the Texas statistics that more than three times as many whites are without a government ID than minorities, meaning that the law would have a greater impact on whites than blacks or Hispanics. Two things come to mind: first the handgun licenses are issued by the state while the student IDs are not and second, is the law really a poll tax? Tennessee, just like Texas will not accept a university issued ID while other states – including my home state of Georgia will accept a student ID as valid identification for a voter ID but it is up to the state. As to a poll tax, Texas senator John Cronyn took issue saying “By invoking the specter of Jim Crow racism, the attorney general is playing the lowest form of identity politics. Mr. Holder knows better. This rhetoric is irresponsible and a disgrace to the office of the attorney general. Shame on him.” Immediately, a Justice department spokesman retorted “Under the Texas law, many of those people without IDs would have to travel great distances to obtain them - and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to secure them.” However, it is interesting to note that in the DC Federal court hearing on the case, one of the witnesses for DOJ who that traveling to obtain a voter ID was too costly was somehow able to travel to Washington, DC and stay for the three day hearing. But is such a law discriminatory? The evidence is to the contrary. In Georgia, the usual suspects – the ACLU and the NAACP – filed suit to block the law as being discriminatory. Yet once the voter ID law was passed voter participation by minorities increased sharply! According to official figures from the Georgia Secretary of State, in the 2008 election, Hispanic voter turnout increased 140 percent over 2004 (when there was no photo ID law in place), while the turnout of black voters went up 42 percent. In the 2010 midterm election, the turnout of Hispanic voters went up 66.5 percent over 2006, while the turnout of black voters increased 44.7 percent. By contrast, the turnout of white voters only increased 8 percent in 2008 and 11.7 percent in 2010. My modest suggestion is that the same groups that show up on election day to bus voters to the polls, bus them to obtain a voter ID.

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