Voter ID bill disenfranchises

After lengthy consideration, the US Department of Justice has wisely denied pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act to Texas’ planned voter ID legislation.

The 1964 act requires that counties or states with a history of discriminating against minorities in their voting laws — that includes Texas — obtain pre-clearance from the DOJ before their voting laws can be changed. The burden lies upon the states to prove that the proposed law does not have a discriminatory effect on voters.

As this column has noted in the past, Texas Senate Bill 14 fails to meet that requirement. The DOJ decided that the law would disenfranchise Hispanic voters. The proposed bill would oblige voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Previously acceptable documents such as a student ID, birth certificate or voter registration card would no longer be adequate. According to the data that Texas itself provided to the  DOJ; Hispanic registered voters are at least 49 percent less likely — and potentially as much as 120 percent less likely — to possess a qualifying ID. Students and the elderly are also statistically less likely to possess the required identification.

Proponents of the legislation say that voter fraud is a serious enough issue that it justifies the discriminatory effects of voter ID laws. However, the only type of voter fraud that could be potentially prevented with stricter ID requirements — impersonating another voter — is so rare that one is more likely to be struck by lightning, according to studies by the NYU School of Law. From 2002 to 2005, there were only 17 convictions for voter impersonation nationwide.

If the Texas legislature is so concerned with election fraud, their efforts would be far better spent ensuring the integrity of voting machines or counting methods, which are much more susceptible to acts of fraud, and wholly unrelated to the issue of photo IDs.

The Voting Rights Act does not simply require that proposed laws have no discriminatory intent, but requires that they have no discriminatory effect as a byproduct of their implementation. The data submitted to the DOJ clearly shows that Senate Bill 14 would have a discriminatory effect on a large number Hispanic registered voters.

Bills like this are the reason pre-clearance is required by the Voting Rights Act in the first place, and makes it clear why the Act was recently renewed. Senate Bill 14 is attempting to stop an extraordinarily rare method of voter fraud by enacting legislation that could disenfranchise more than 600,000 registered voters — and that’s according to the state’s own data. In the years following the passage of the 15th Amendment, many southern states seeking to disenfranchise African-American voters passed laws requiring voters to pay a large poll tax in order to vote. Other states required literacy tests, or forbade an individual from voting if their grandfather had not been able to vote. Even the use of violence and physical intimidation to dissuade potential voters was not uncommon. In 1964, the Voting Rights Act outlawed these practices and required that any changes to voting laws in the states that had used such practices be subject to pre-clearance.

Voting is a constitutional right, and lies at the very core of our democracy. With our country’s woefully low voter turnout, we should be trying to get more voters to the polls, not pushing them away with red tape. Requiring photo ID will keep many from the polls, and will do essentially nothing to prevent voter fraud.

The Department of Justice was right to reject this voter ID bill. Disenfranchising more than 600,000 Texas voters to prevent unlikely and statistically insignificant fraud is just not worth it.

Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected].


  • Voter ID laws tend to be very partisan and is an effort to disenfranchise minorities, which are more likely to vote Democrat. Voter intimidation, such as warning minorities to stay away from polls if they have arrest warrants (Florida '04) or posting flyers with the wrong election date (Michigan '08), are much more common.

  • Sorry, but that’s all BS. Nobody even comes up with an explanation as to how people are supposedly being “prevented” from voting. Not even the author has attempted to think of a reason.
    Voting is a constitutional right.. for U.S. citizens.

  • I just don't get the opposition to preventing voter fraud by requiring a picture ID. We try to prevent illegal drivers, credit card use, and check cashing with a picture ID. Why not fraudulent voting? This article only repeats the Democratic talking points but really never addresses why this is a bad idea other than to use the hypothetical argument that it will keep legitimate legal hispanic citizens away from the voting booth. This is a very weak argument that has not been proven. Where is the proof of voter intimidation? If you want to make this argument then you need to back it up with some proof and not just quote talking points. I really do not want my legitimate vote negated by a non-citizen or a dead person that has no real stake in the future of my country and state, and taking steps to prevent that from happening is good for me.

  • This article, and author, have construed a very bias side of an important debate on citizen rights. Voting is a right for American Citizens, not all individuals residing in these boarders. No political party should not use, or assist, illegal voting to receive votes that will effect US citizens.

  • I have to show ID when driving, buying alchohol, cash a check, withdraw money from a bank, pay a ticket, get a job. So frankly I think these arguments about disenfranchisement are moot.

  • You have to use an I.D. to buy cigarettes, alcohol, get welfare, fly an airplane, go into a club, use a credit card, drive a vehicle, rent an apartment, write a check, take a test at UH. But not to vote?!?!? Are you serious? The most important thing that we do as citizens of this nation and we shouldn’t need an I.D.?

  • What a waste of an article that doesn't show any real points. I don't see how this "disenfranchises" anyone just because they have to have a valid ID to vote. If people feel intimidated by having to show ID, you've got bigger issues……

  • Another typical Cougar article–calling yourselves journalists or a paper is a stretch.

    I still don't understand the beef with having to show an ID to vote.

    This is PURELY about voter fraud–not disfranchising voters. I don’t buy for a minute that people are unwilling to get a photo ID (which is a, and should be, a law in many places), but they’re somehow miraculously willing to make it to the polls (and make an informed decision).

    What’s the point of an election if we’re not willing to take the necessary steps to ensure their sanctity?

  • How anyone over the age of 18 can get by without a state ID card or drivers license is beyond me. It's not like it costs hundreds of dollars. There's not much integrity of our voting system if we can't even take measures to ensure that only people that are legally allowed to vote, are able to cast that ballot.

    It's not like the law tries to put a huge target on Hispanics, it just so happens that according to their data, Hispanics are less likely to have the necessary ID. If that's the problem, then tell them to get the necessary ID and be done with it. If they really care about voting, they'll find a way to arrange it.

    • See the article failed to mention the state ID that one can obtain even when they don't, can't or refuse to drive a motor vehicle. It is cheap (about 15-20 bucks and last as long as a DL would) and any one can get it by proving that they are a legal resident which means you have to be legally in this country.

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