April 19, 2009
Voter ID must be reviewed

This is generally good news, but maybe not quite as good as it sounds.

Texas' proposed Voter ID law would be subject to approval by the U.S. Department of Justice or federal court for it to become law, federal officials confirm.

In a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Christopher Coates, chief of the Justice Departments' voting section, advised that "before a change such as one requiring photo identification as part of the voting process can be legally enforced in Texas elections, state officials will be required to comply" with a federal law requiring review.


Last month, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and the ACLU asked the federal Attorney General whether the proposed changes in Texas law to require a photo ID at the polls would be subject to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A provision of that law requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get permission from the federal government before changing election laws.

Because of that, Texas would have the option of submitting Voter ID for approval by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder or requesting a federal judge in the District of Columbia to rule "that the proposed change has neither the purpose nor will have the effect of discriminating on the basis of race, color or membership in a protected ...group," explained Coates.

"This strengthens our opposition to this politically motivated and unnecessary piece of legislation," Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. "We feel the provisions would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and place an undue burden on minority voters."

If the review goes to the Justice Department, then I feel confident that nothing onerous will get through. If the court in question is the DC Circuit Appeals Court, with its heavy Republican tilt, I feel a lot less confident. Who gets to decide who does the review? It's good that there will be some kind of backstop on this if all else fails, but I'm not ready to celebrate just yet.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 19, 2009 to Show Business for Ugly People
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