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Home | Tag Archives: texas voter id

Tag Archives: texas voter id

Texans Face New Voter ID Law for March 6 Primaries

AUSTIN – When Texans head to the polls March 6 for the first primary of the 2018 midterm elections, they’ll face a new Voter ID law.

That law, which went into effect Jan. 1, keeps the same list of permissible forms of identification, but allows Texans without a photo ID to vote if they present an alternate form of ID, such as a utility bill or pay stub.

However, according to Beth Stevens, voting rights director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, to use an alternative ID, you’ll have to sign a “reasonable impediment form” stating why you couldn’t obtain a proper ID.

She maintains the form, which sternly warns of the possible penalties for voter fraud, is designed to intimidate minority voters.

“On the reasonable impediment form itself, there’s going to be notice to the voter of, ‘Look, here are the things you could be charged with’ – perjury, or there’s a state jail felony,” she points out. “So, you can imagine as a voter going in and reading that, it can be scary.”

Stevens says the new law was revised last year by the Legislature after the courts struck down the 2011 Voter ID Law.

A federal judge ruled in 2017 that the first law was discriminatory, and is still considering whether state lawmakers passed that law with the intent to discriminate.

And even though the new version of the law is in effect, Stevens says yet another legal challenge could be in the offing.

Stevens says the Texas Civil Rights Project has joined the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, a national effort to ensure voting rights.

The coalition will have trained volunteers and attorneys answering toll-free phone numbers in English, Spanish and a multi-Asian-language line to assist Texans with any problems they may encounter in the voting process.

“Anyone can call these numbers and ask anything as seemingly mundane as, ‘I don’t know where my polling location is,’ all the way to something more sinister like, ‘I’m in line to vote and I’m being intimidated,'” Stevens states.

She adds the coalition is also training hundreds of observers to place at polling stations across the state to ensure that voting rights are upheld, during both the March primaries and the general election in November.

Early voting for the primary begins Feb. 20.

Author:  Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

Federal Judge Sanctions Texas in Voter Registration Lawsuit

The state’s “months-long delay” in producing documents “has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming” and has burdened plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit, the judge wrote. The order will run up Texas’ legal tab.

A federal judge has ordered sanctions against the state of Texas for blowing past deadlines and ignoring a court order to hand over thousands of pages of documents in a lawsuit challenging its voter registration practices.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office’s “months-long delay” in producing the documents “has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming” and has burdened plaintiffs in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio wrote in an order signed Thursday. Garcia ordered the state to pay some of the plaintiffs’ legal fees, including those tied to the sanctions request.

The Texas Civil Rights Project last March sued on behalf of four Texans who allege the Department of Public Safety denied them the opportunity to cast a ballot — and violated federal law — by failing to update their voter registration records online.

The group, hoping for quick action during the 2018 election cycle, argued in a motion for sanctions last month that foot-dragging from Paxton’s office was hampering its case. State lawyers turned over less than 2 percent of the 55,000 requested pages by Jan. 17 — a court-ordered deadline set after Texas asked for several extensions.

Texas argued that the Secretary of State’s office was busy dealing with the 2016 general election and that its legal team — with only one attorney assigned to the case — lacked the manpower to respond to the information request.

Garcia rejected those and other arguments. He wrote that Texas had never asked for a deadline extension because of the election, and he suggested that Paxton’s office had plenty of resources.

“It is critical that these issues be resolved well before the 2018 election,” Beth Stevens, voting rights director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement Friday. “Today’s order is a strong sign the Court also recognizes the important issues at stake.”

In its lawsuit, the group claims the DPS website’s voter registration features are convoluted, misleading and in violation of federal law.

Texas argues its practices comply with the law in question, sometimes known as the Motor Voter Act.

The 1993 law requires states to give folks the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.

No one disputes that the Department of Public Safety follows the law when Texans handle that business in person, but it’s a different story for folks who update their license information online, the lawsuit argues.

The website eventually directs Texans who check “yes” to the statement “I want to register to vote” to the Secretary of State’s website. There, they can find a registration form that they must print out and send to their county registrar.

Though the website specifies that checking yes “does not register you to vote,” the process has spurred “widespread confusion” among Texans who erroneously thought the state had automatically updated their registrations, the lawsuit alleges.

Over a 20-month stretch ending in May 2015, the state fielded more than 1,800 complaints from Texans who erroneously thought their voter registration records were up to date after they dealt with their driver’s licenses online, according to court filings.

The lawsuit argues the Motor Voter law applies to all voters — regardless of how they deal with their driver’s licenses — and that the state violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by treating them differently.

“Our litigation is about making sure every voter can cast a ballot that counts,” Stevens’ statement said.

Author:  JIM MALEWITZ – The Texas Tribune

Supreme Court Rejects Texas Voter ID Appeal — For Now

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up Texas’ effort to salvage its strict voter identification law, handing at least a temporary victory to civil rights advocates who have successfully argued that the law discriminates against minorities.

But Chief Justice John Roberts said Texas could later try another appeal — after a lower court rules whether state lawmakers discriminated on purpose when they passed the law in 2011.

“Petitioners may raise either or both issues again after entry of final judgment,” Roberts wrote Monday.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was “disappointed” that the high court would not immediately hear the case. But, he added in a statement, Roberts made it “very clear” that an appeal request would be “even stronger” after the lower court resolves lingering questions.

The court’s decision comes as voting rights experts are waiting to see if President Donald Trump’s administration will reverse the federal government’s opposition to the Texas law.

Last July, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas’ 2011 voter ID law discriminated against minority groups, who were less likely to possess one of seven accepted types of identification. Those include: a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.

The Texas law violated the federal Voting Rights Act, the appeals court ruled. That court did not wholly strike down the law, but ordered a lower court judge — Nelva Gonzales Ramos, of Corpus Christi — to draw up a temporary fix for last year’s elections.

She temporarily softened the rules, allowing folks without photo identification to vote if they presented an alternate form of ID and signed a form swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining identification.

The appeals court also told Ramos, who previously ruled that Texas intentionally discriminated in drawing up the law, to reweigh the evidence on that question.

Experts have testified that more than 600,000 Texans lacked identification required by the 2011 law, though not all of them have necessarily tried to vote.

Texas officials say the voter ID law bolsters the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud, which Gov. Greg Abbott has called “rampant.” But the U.S. Department of Justice (under President Obama) and other plaintiffs — backed by court rulings — have pointed out that in-person voter fraud is incredibly rare.

Texas had spent about $3.5 million litigating the case as of last April.

“We will continue to fight for the law in the district court, the Fifth Circuit, and if necessary, the Supreme Court again,” Paxton said Monday.

The Supreme Court’s decision came days after the Trump administration requested a delay in the lower court proceedings, which fueled speculation that his team could switch the federal government’s side in the battle, joining Texas leaders in defending the law.

On Friday, Ramos granted Trump’s request to delay a hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday until Feb. 28 as the new administration settles into office.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which is representing plaintiffs in the case, said Monday that the U.S. Justice Department “has ably carried out its work to show that Voter ID is unlawful and we expect they will continue this important work under a new administration.”

“That said,” she added, “we remain fully prepared to litigate this case to its final conclusion. Voters and would-be voters have waited too long for relief in this important case.”

Author –  JIM MALEWITZ – The Texas Tribune

Texas Appeals Voter ID Rulings to U.S. Supreme Court

Texas wants to take its voter identification battle to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked the justices to hear his arguments about why the state’s photo ID requirements for voting do not discriminate against Hispanics and African-American voters.

“Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” the Republican said in a statement. “Texas enacted a common-sense voter ID law and I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately reinstate it.”

Texas officials say the voter ID law bolsters the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud, which Gov. Greg Abbott has called “rampant.” But the U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs — backed by court rulings — have pointed out that in-person voter fraud is incredibly rare.

Friday’s filing is Paxton’s last-ditch attempt to salvage the requirements after a string of defeats in court.

In July, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appealsaffirmed lower court rulings that the 2011 law, considered the nation’s strictest, violates the federalid qt Voting Rights Act. In a 9-6 ruling, the conservative court agreed that narrowly tailored requirements disproportionately affected minority voters — those who were less likely to hold one of seven types of photo ID. Those include: a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.

Experts have testified that more than 600,000 Texans lack such identification, though not all of them have necessarily tried to vote.

Paxton is appealing to a Supreme Court that still has just eight members, following the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. If the justices agree to hear the case — and if they do so without a replacement for Scalia — Paxton would need five votes to overturn the appeals court ruling. A 4-4 split would allow it to stand.

Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center and an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he did not expect the justices to accept the case, and he called the 5th Circuit’s decision “comprehensive.”

“It’s really more of a political move to satisfy the right wing of the Republican Party,” he said.  “I think it’s just them taking another pile of taxpayer money and setting it on fire.”

The Supreme Court appeal will not affect the Nov. 8 elections, which will take place with relaxed requirements.

Following the July ruling, a federal judge ordered Texas to allow qualified voters to cast a ballot – even if they arrive to the polls without photo identification.

They may sign a statement swearing that a “reasonable impediment” prevented them from obtaining an acceptable ID, and present proof of identity, such as a voter registration card, utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.

Friday’s petition continued the photo ID law’s convoluted legal journey. As of April, Paxton’s office had spent more than $3.5 million defending it, records show.

Read more about the Texas voter ID law:

  • Texas must issue new press releases and other materials in its voter education campaign. That comes after the federal government and other plaintiffs accused state officials of misleading voters about identification requirements.
  • Here is what you need to know about a complicated appeals court ruling that Texas’ voter identification law discriminates against minority groups.
  • Only 15 voter fraud cases have been prosecuted by the attorney general’s office between the 2012 primary election and July, and none of them involved voter impersonation — the offense Texas’ voter ID law was supposedly design to prevent.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Agreement Means More Texans Can Vote in November

AUSTIN, Texas – Voting rights advocates encouraged the more than 500,000 Texans who could not have voted under the Texas Voter ID law because they lacked a photo ID to cast a ballot in the November general election.

Following a federal court ruling striking down most of the law, state officials and the plaintiffs in the case agreed to a set of rules making it easier for voters to identify themselves at the polls. Mary Moreno, communications director with the Texas Organizing Project, said her group is gearing up to get the message out to minority voters to get them to the polls on Election Day.

“We’re going to launch our ‘Get Out the Vote,’ which is what we really focus on, more than registration,” Moreno said. “We knock on doors and we connect the issues to the ballot box. You might not know who the politicians are that are running, but people always care about the issues that affect their lives.”

Under the agreement, a voter who doesn’t have a photo ID like a driver’s license or passport can now use a birth certificate, a paycheck stub, or a utility bill to establish their identity.

When the voter ID law was passed in 2011, backers said it was designed to prevent voter fraud. But opponents like Matt Angle, executive director at the Lone Star Project, believed it was passed to keep minority voters away from the ballot box, whether they had an ID or not.

“A lot of Texans who might have had the type of photo ID that was necessary were discouraged from voting by the Republican state leaders making voting sound like a risky proposition, sounding like it was something difficult to do,” Angle said. “That discouragement will no longer be there.”

Following the Texas ruling, courts struck down all or some of similar voter ID laws in Arkansas, North Carolina, and North Dakota. Legal challenges to voter ID laws are also pending in several other states.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

In High-Profile Case, Texas Defends Its Voter ID Law

NEW ORLEANS — A top lawyer for Texas fiercely defended the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law on Tuesday, in a high-profile case that could ultimately determine at what point states that assert that they are protecting the integrity of elections cross over into disenfranchisement.

Standing before all 15 members of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued that judges were wrong to conclude in two previous rulings that the Texas Legislature discriminated against minority and low-income voters in passing a 2011 law that stipulates which types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls.

If those rulings are left as written, “all voting laws could be in jeopardy,” Keller said before a packed courtroom that included his boss, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Lawyers representing the U.S. Department of Justice, minority groups and other plaintiffs disagreed, asking the judges to affirm what a lower court — and a three-judge panel in this same courthouse — previously concluded: that Senate Bill 14 has a “discriminatory effect” on Hispanic, African-American and other would-be voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Only a handful of judges asked questions at length on Tuesday, making it difficult to know where the majority stands. But the 5th Circuit is considered among the nation’s most conservative, with 1o of its members having been appointed by Republican presidents.

Paxton left the courtroom Tuesday feeling “optimistic” that the law, “which has worked” in preventing voter fraud would survive, he told the Tribune.

“There’s been no discriminatory effect shown – they never provided any evidence,” Paxton said. “We’ve done everything we can to provide a way for people to vote. It’s clear.”

Asked whether Texas should also strengthen rules for absentee voting, considering that experts say those ballots are far more prone to fraud than those cast in person, Paxton said that was “totally up to the legislature.”

He added, however: “Anything that eliminates fraud is usually good.”

Chad Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he wouldn’t bother trying to read the judges’ leanings based on their questions, but he nevertheless felt confident, calling the Texas law “indefensible.”

In the courtroom, opponents of the rule argued that not all voter ID laws violate the federal law, but that the state’s unusually short list of what election workers can accept at the polls is particularly burdensome for certain voters — particularly minorities.

“The question is whether there are requirements in SB 14 that are needlessly hard” for certain voters, Dunn told the judges. “The details of this law – which have never been justified — are what make this unconstitutional.”

The Texas law requires most citizens (some, like people with disabilities, can be exempt) to show one of a handful of types of identification before their ballots can be counted. Those include: a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo.

Texas is among nine states categorized as requiring “strict photo ID,” and its list of acceptable forms is the shortest.

Experts have testified that more than 600,000 Texans lack such identification, though not all of them have necessarily tried to vote. Those citizens can obtain “election identification certificates” free of charge, but only if they are able to produce a copy of their birth certificate.

Voting rights experts are watching closely, saying this is one of two such battles, alongsideone in North Carolina, that the U.S. Supreme Court — currently split along ideological lines — may ultimately decide.

In defending its law, Texas points to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling — Crawford v. Marion County Election Board — that determined that an Indiana photo ID law should be upheld even if it was “fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role” in its enactment. At that time, the high court said Indiana had a “valid interest” in “deterring and detecting voter fraud” and had implemented the law neutrally.

“The plaintiff’s aim here, is to essentially try to re-litigate Crawford,” Keller argued Tuesday.

Judge Edith Jones, a Ronald Reagan appointee, agreed with Texas that the Crawforddecision supports the notion that the “state has legitimate interest in combatting voter fraud.”

But Plaintiffs pointed out key differences between the Texas voter ID law and Indiana’s, which includes a much broader list of acceptable identification. And they asked why Texas, when drawing up its law in 2011, would not have used the three-year-old Crawford decision for guidance — instead of drawing up its much narrower requirements.

Chief Judge Carl Stewart, a President Bill Clinton-appointee, also probed that question.

“Am I missing something here?” he asked in discussing the Indiana case. Later in the arguments, he listed a host of states that require photo ID but allow more options than Texas does. “Why are you saying ‘we’re like those other states’?”

Lawyers on each side sparred over what kind of evidence is needed to prove discrimination under the law. Keller argued that voter turnout figures showing a disparate impact on minority owners was needed. Opponents of the law argued that demonstrating that the law disproportionally diminished some Texans’ “opportunity” to cast a vote was evidence enough.

If that broader view were adopted, Keller suggested, all state election laws would be more vulnerable to challenges under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Janai Nelson, arguing on behalf of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, pointed to the environment under which the Texas law was passed, noting that lawmakers voted for it amid a legislative session that also saw intense race-infused debates surrounding issues like immigration and sanctuary cities — raising questions about their mindset and intent in creating the ID rules.

“The role of race,” she said, “simply cannot be ignored.”

Texas maintains that the law bolsters ballot security and that there is no evidence that it prevents legitimate voters from casting ballots.

“The point of this law is to make sure that voter fraud isn’t occurring,” Keller said in an interview on the courthouse steps. “It’s not to suppress voter turnout. Often times in legislative battles, motives start to be attributed. In this case, they were by opponents, because they disagreed with the policy.”

Though a federal district court and a panel of 5th Circuit judges have ruled that the Texas requirements violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act,the law has been enforced at polling locations around the state since 2013. The outcome in here could determine whether the rules remain in effect for the presidential election in November. The U.S. Supreme Court set a July 20 timetable for the appeals court to rule.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

Study: Texas Voter ID Law Kept Voters from the Polls

HOUSTON – Texas’ voter ID law kept some voters away from the polls in the 2014 elections, according to a new report.

The Rice University study focused on the Latino-majority 23rd U.S. Congressional District, and shows that confusion over identification requirements discouraged as many as 9 percent of registered voters from casting ballots.

It also found Latinos were more likely than Anglos to cite lack of ID as the reason they didn’t vote, says study author Mark Jones of Rice’s Baker Institute.

“It certainly depressed turnout,” he points out. “It is clear that the presence of the voter ID law reduced the number of voters in Congressional District 23 who actually turned out to vote.”

The report’s conclusions come on the heels of a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Texas law discriminated against blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he’ll continue to fight for voter ID requirements to ensure the integrity of elections in the state.

The study suggests the Voter ID law may have impacted the outcome of the 23rd district race. It showed more than four times as many Democrats as Republicans stayed away from the polls due to ID requirements.

Democrat Pete Gallego lost to Republican Will Hurd by just over 2,400 votes, a 2 percent advantage.

Jones says the report also found almost 13 percent of voters who stayed away actually did possess at least one form of valid photo ID.

“This highlights the need for an education campaign between now and the November 2016 election to try to reduce the confusion, and thereby increase turnout,” he stresses.

Approved forms of photo ID include a Texas drivers license, election ID certificate, personal ID card and concealed handgun license – all issued by the Department of Public Safety.

Texans can also vote by presenting a U.S. military ID card, a U.S. passport or a U.S. citizenship certificate with photo.

Author: Eric Galatas – Texas News Service

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