Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

News

April 11, 2012

Justice: Evidence of bias in Texas voter ID law

AUSTIN — The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday there is substantial evidence Texas' voter identification law will discriminate against minorities.

The department's assertion came in papers filed in a Washington federal court explaining why Texas lawmakers should have to testify and turn over their communications regarding the law to a panel of judges considering whether the law can be implemented by the November election.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has argued lawmakers should not have to reveal internal deliberations.

"These discovery requests represent an unwarranted federal intrusion into the operations of the Texas Legislature," Abbott said in his effort to prevent U.S. attorneys from acquiring the paperwork they requested and interviewing lawmakers and their staff. He argued lawmakers can only do their work if they are confident their deliberation cannot be brought up in court.

But the Justice Department says no such privilege exists and that evidence presented in the case so far shows 600,000 people will be unable to vote if the law is enforced and that minorities would be impacted the most. The department said the court needs more information to determine whether lawmakers intended the law to discriminate against minority voters.

"The record available to the United States at this point already contains significant circumstantial evidence that could support a finding of discriminatory intent," the papers filed Wednesday said.

Texas law currently requires a voter to present a registration card or a photo identification card to vote. The law passed last year would require everyone to present an official photo ID before voting.

Texas is one of nine states, most of them in the South, required to submit all changes to electoral law for federal approval, either by the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington. Texas has sued in federal court to have the voter ID law approved in time for the November general election.

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