ACLU Had Argued Law Was Discriminatory and Violated Voting Rights Act
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WASHINGTON -- A U.S. District Court today blocked Texas’ new voter ID law because it discriminates against minorities and conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.
In doing so, the three-judge panel in Washington removed a stumbling block that opponents of the law argued could keep up to 1.5 million Texas voters from the polls in November, the majority of whom are Hispanic or Black.
“By blocking this law, the court reaffirmed the right of all people in this country to participate in our democracy,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, which represented Texas-based organizations and individuals in the case.
The ACLU and other groups maintained that minorities are less likely to possess any of the six forms of acceptable government-issued photo ID required under the law.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 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 U.S. District Court in Washington. Texas originally sought preclearance from the DOJ, which the DOJ denied on March 12. Prior to receiving a final decision from the DOJ, however, the state requested approval from the court as well.
“This case demonstrates precisely why we still need Section 5 in 2012,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Without the process of federal review it mandates, democracy would have failed the largely minority population who cannot afford to purchase the underlying documents, travel long distances – up to 100 miles in some cases – or take off work to get to the closest government office that issues photo identification.”
The ACLU was among several groups that intervened in the case on the side of the DOJ.
“The ACLU remains committed to helping enforce the Voting Rights Act, and we will continue to challenge any law that threatens the fairness of the voting process for any U.S. citizen,” Abudu said.
Rev. Peter Johnson, of the civil rights and social justice organization Justice Seekers, who testified during the trial, said the decision has implications beyond Texas.
“Historically, the federal courts have been the only place where minorities in the South could defend their right to vote. This decision today further confirms that the system works, that there still are processes by which we can ensure our rights are protected, and that those who fought for equality during the civil rights movement did not do so in vain.”
For a copy of the decision, go to: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/texas-voter-id-decision
To learn more about the ACLU’s work on voting rights, go to: www.aclu.org/pressroom/voting