Texas officials are citing the Justice Department’s controversial approval of Georgia’s voter ID law during the Bush administration as a reason for the Obama administration to clear their new law.Gov. Rick Perry, now in the running for the Republican presidential nomination, signed the voter ID bill into law in May. Perry had designated the measure as an “emergency item,” despite the lack of evidence that the voter fraud the law purports to try to prevent a major problem. The law requires voters show one of five forms of ID when they go to vote: a drivers license, military ID, a passport, a concealed handgun license or a voter ID card the state provides for free.
Secretary of State Hope Andrade wrote a letter to the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s voting section defending the measure and seeking preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.
Andrade called the Texas law “remarkably similar” to Georgia’s precleared voter ID law. “In fact, DOJ precleared Georgia’s original photo-identification law even before Georgia enacted its free ID provision and its most recent extensive voter education mandate, which Georgia added in a subsequent legislative session.”
But the approval of the Georgia voter ID law was done by political officials in the Bush Justice Department over the objection of career employees in the voting section, who had recommended that the law not be approved.
Within a year of recommending that Georgia’s voter ID law not be precleared, three of the career employees who made the recommendation had either left or were transferred out of the voting section.
“They weren’t really interested in investigating Georgia’s submission,” former DOJ lawyer Toby Moore told TPM back in 2007. “They were mainly interested in assembling evidence to support pre-clearance. Any attempt to bring up counter-evidence to suggest a discriminatory impact was ignored or critiqued. We were told it was our own bias…. Any evidence in support was embraced uncritically.”
A state Supreme Court judge eventually upheld Georgia’s voter ID law.
Texas’ battle over voter ID laws has been going on for years. But more recently, the Tea Party affiliated group True the Vote has got into the fray, even holding a national convention to push for restrictive voter ID measures.
Full coverage of voter ID developments here.