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Texas League of Young Voters

Another lawsuit filed against the voter ID law

The Observer reports.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Election Day last week brought plenty of complaints at the polls about Texas’ new voter ID law, but it also brought one major complaint in Corpus Christi federal court, where nine voters joined La Unión Del Pueblo Entero in suing the state over its tough new voting requirements.

The plaintiffs are long-time voters from South Texas who lack the photo ID now required to vote in Texas since the 2011 law took effect. “The State knew or should have known,” the suit says, “that Hispanic and African-American Texans disproportionately lack the forms of photo ID required by SB 14.”

[…]

The new complaint is focused specifically on the burden the law places on poor, rural voters, according to David Hall, executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which is representing the new plaintiffs.

“What we were trying to do is fill in a niche that didn’t seem to be addressed much by the Justice Department suit or the other plaintiffs,” he told the Observer. “Most of our clients don’t have a handy certified copy of a birth certificate, so they’re going to be paying some money.”

That cost varies from $22—for the copy of a birth certificate you’d need in order to get a new state ID—to $345 for a copy of citizenship papers, according to the complaint. For residents of rural Willacy, Goliad or Karnes counties, getting that paperwork together can mean long, costly trips to the closest DPS office.

These are all familiar concerns to critics of the voter ID law—often raised by Democrats during the Legislature’s debate over the law, and dismissed by Republicans as abstract worries. Each of the nine plaintiffs in this suit demonstrate the very real problems Texas’ voter ID law created.

Eulalio Mendez, Jr., is an 82-year-old man living in Willacy County whose driver’s license expired in June 2012, and who has no way to travel to the DPS office in Harlingen that issues ID cards. Roxsanne Hernandez, in the Goliad County town of Berclair, had her state ID card stolen last year and doesn’t have a copy of her birth certificate. Estela Garcia Espinoza is a 69-year-old Raymondville woman who no longer drives, and whose license expired four years ago. She was born on a Starr County ranch in 1944 and her birth was never officially registered.

All the plaintiffs had voted regularly before this year, according to the complaint, and have incomes well below the poverty line.

Courthouse News has more on the suit; you can see a copy of it at the Observer. As I’ve been saying, the problem with voter ID is the effect it has on the hundreds of thousands of people in the state who don’t have an ID and who can’t easily get it. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit, all of whom have been effectively disenfranchised by the law, are clear examples of this, and no happy-talk pronouncement about how “smoothly” this past election went by Republican election officials can change that. Unfortunately, the trial may not even begin before next November’s election, so whatever the full effect of this law may be, we’ll feel it. I hope we’ll be able to get an injunction before then, but we’ll see. Texas Redistricting, who also reported that the Texas League of Young Voters has amended its complaint to include non-race based claims, has more.

Redistricting and voter ID lawsuit updates

From Texas Redistricting, a typically thorough look at where things stand with redistricting and voter ID litigation in the three courts – San Antonio, where the redistricting litigation has been ongoing and is likely due for some action; Corpus Christi, where the recent voter ID lawsuits were filed and now stand, likely pending consolidation; and the DC Circuit Court, which still has some unfinished business on redistricting but no longer on voter ID. Read it and stay up to date on what’s happening.

There are now some new players in the voter ID litigation. First up is the Texas League of Young Voters, who filed papers to join the fray on Monday.

The filing contends that the state’s voter ID law would disproportionately affect students like Imani Clark, a student at historically black Prairie View A&M University in Waller County.

The filings said that Ms. Clark did not drive and did not possess any of the seven forms of ID required by S.B. 14, though she does have a student ID with which she had been able to vote in past elections.

The League contends that the law violates both section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th amendments of the Constitution.

See the filing, which will be opposed by the state of Texas, here. The state of Texas also opposes the intervention by the Justice Department, not that this should surprise anyone. The DOJ, meanwhile, wants the court to combine the cases and postpone some of the deadlines. I expect that will be granted.

Also getting in the voter ID litigation action is the city of Austin.

A unanimous council, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 cleared the way for the voter-ID law, directed the city’s lawyers to look into joining a lawsuit already filed U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, as well as any challenges to the voter law by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The council also directed the city staff to explore other steps, such as establishing places where residents without proper identification could secure a provisional ID for voting purposes.

The council’s resolution states the voter-ID law “may present a barrier to eligible citizens who intend to vote, especially minorities and those who may have recently moved or gotten married or divorced and may not realize that they need to update their identification.”

Good for Austin. I’d like to see a lot more cities join them in this.

The Atlantic has a good overview of the stakes and the more inflammatory rhetoric being used in the current legal battles.

What we are seeing now is a political war that will be waged in legal terms in part because of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling and in part because of all of the voter suppression efforts that preceded it (in Texas and around the country). Just because state officials are offended by a federal lawsuit doesn’t mean the state law they seek to defend is constitutional. And just because a state law makes it harder for people to vote doesn’t necessarily make it unconstitutional. The post-Shelby County world has arrived, not with a quick Congressional fix to restore key voting protections for minorities but with still more politically tinged litigation.

Read the whole thing. In addition to the state-versus-federal lawsuits, there is now litigation in Galveston County over its proposal to reduce the number of constable and JP precincts, and I feel confident that a lawsuit over the Pasadena City Council redistricting plan is imminent. These are good days to be an election lawyer, that’s for sure.