Coalition: Perry’s Voter ID Law Intentionally Discriminates Against Minorities

September 13, 2011 1:15 p.m.

A photo voter ID law signed by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is unnecessary, unfair, restrictive and intentionally discriminates against African-American and Latino voters, a coalition of civil rights groups will argue in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday.

Groups in the coalition want DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to oppose preclearance of Texas’s photo voter identification law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, Southwest Workers Union, a statewide Hispanic organization and Demos say the state failed to prove that the law was enacted for a nondiscriminatory purpose and that it will have no discriminatory effect on minorities.“This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century,” Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis said in a statement. “If this bill is allowed to stand it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation’s democracy.”

Perry declared the voter ID measure a “legislative emergency,” allowing the Texas legislature to speed up the passage of the bill. The groups said that a 2008 study “documented that out of the millions of Texas voters between 2006 and 2008, none were accused of in-person impersonation.”

Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, spoke about the Voting Section’s review of photo voter ID laws at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who held a hearing last week on voter ID, asked whether there had been an increased incidence of voter fraud over the past several years that might give rise to such legislation.

Perez said the “why question” — as in the reason a state is passing a law — “is in our analysis, one of the $64,000 questions that we have to answer, because if you are analyzing a submission to determine whether there was discriminatory purpose, that’s really the ‘why’ question.”

“In the work that we are doing now in connection with a number of submission, that’s a question,” Perez said. “We will follow the facts where the facts lead us. We will obviously be guided by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Indiana case.”

The full letter is here. Read TPM’s full coverage of the voter ID issue here.

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