Texas provided “incomplete” information that does not enable federal officials to determine whether their proposed voter ID law would be discriminatory, the Justice Department said in a letter Wednesday.
Essentially, the letter from DOJ Civil Rights Division Voting Section Chief T. Christian Herren Jr. restarts the clock on when the Department has to make a decision about whether the law signed by Gov. Rick Perry complies with the Voting Rights Act. They have 60 days from when Texas sends them complete information.
As the Trib notes, this may mean that the law will not be allowed to take effect on January 1, as the DOJ now has another 60 days to make up its mind. Perhaps if the state ever sends the DOJ the information it has requested, the DOJ might be able to issue a ruling.
The Secretary of State filed its original request for preclearance in July, but the department determined in September that it needed more information, specifically the racial breakdown and counties of residence of the estimated 605,500 registered voters who do not have a state-issued license or ID, and how many of them have Spanish surnames. It requested the same information for registered voters who do have valid IDs.
On October 5 the state responded by saying it did not have the requested information because it does not collect race data on voter registration applications. So instead, it submitted a list of all the Hispanic surnames in Texas, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau. It also offered to run that list against the list of registered voters to determine how many have Hispanic names, and provided a spreadsheet showing how many registered voters resided in each county as of Sept. 16. The spreadsheet shows how many voters did not provide an ID when they registered to vote, how many voters did not provide an ID but whose records matched an ID record in the Department of Public Safety database — meaning they have been issued an ID — and those who did not provide an ID and could not be matched with a DPS record.
Though the state subsequently offered late last month to use DPS data to compile a breakdown, Wednesday’s letter implies that it has yet to submit the information.
“Although you did not indicate a date when this information would be available, you noted that the state will provide the results of its analysis as expeditiously as possible,” the letter states.
The SOS can take all the time it wants, as far as I’m concerned. The fifth of never works for me as a deadline. Of course, as many people have noted, if the SOS does ever get around to providing the data the DOJ wants, it may very well have the effect of proving the discriminatory effect that opponents of voter ID have been predicting all along. Given that, delaying and hoping for divine intervention or a sudden acceptance of their no-answer answer seems like a decent strategy.
It’s amusing that the DOJ slapped down the SOS again the same week that Republican State Rep. Patricia Harless, who had said that the DOJ’s initial request for more data was “reasonable” and that the SOS should be able to respond quickly, published a lame pro-voter ID op-ed that essentially boiled down to “it won’t suppress as many votes as the critics say” and “it polls well”. I mean, Free Ice Cream Day would probably poll well, too, but that doesn’t mean it would be good public policy. Notably, Harless snuck in a bit about how voter ID would protect us from “fraud”, but nowhere in her piece did she document any actual examples of fraud that voter ID would protect us from. We all know the reason for that, of course, but then Harless can’t exactly come out and admit that the actual purpose of voter ID is to make it harder for some people to vote, as that might sound scary. But a discriminatory law by any other name would still discriminate.