The federal government will not preclear a photo voter identification law signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) because it would have a greater impact on Hispanic voters, a Justice Department official said in a letter to state authorities on Monday.
Hispanic registered voters in Texas were either 46.5 percent or 120 percent more likely than average voter to lack a form of photo ID, according to data the state submitted to DOJ. The first data set was sent in September and the second in January, though Texas has refused to tell federal authorities which they believe is more accurate. The first data set said that 6.3 percent of Hispanic registered voters lacked photo ID compared to 4.3 percent of the general pool of registered voters, while the second data set said 10.8 percent of Hispanic registered voters lacked ID compared to 4.9 percent of registered voters.
An applicant for an election identification certificate will be required to provide two pieces of secondary identification, or one piece of secondary identification and two supporting documents. If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate. There is a statistically significant correlation between the Hispanic population percentage of a county and the percentage of a county’s population that lives below the poverty line. The legislature tabled amendments that would have prohibited state agencies from charging for any underlying documents needed to obtain an acceptable form of photographic identification.
As noted above, an applicant for an election identification certificate will have to travel to a driver’s license office. This raises three discrete issues. First, according to the most recent American Community Survey three-year estimates, 7.3 percent of Hispanic or Latino households do not have an available vehicle, as compared with only 3.8 percent of non-Hispanic white households that lack an available vehicle. Statistically significant correlations exist between the Hispanic voting-age population percentage of a county, and the percentage of occupied housing units without a vehicle.
Second, in 81 of the state’s 254 counties, there are no operational driver’s license offices. The disparity in the rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics with regard to the possession of either a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS is particularly stark in counties without driver’s license offices.
The third and final point is the limited hours that such offices are open. Only 49 of the 221 currently open driver’s license offices across the state have extended hours. Even Senator Troy Fraser, the primary author of this legislation in the Senate, acknowledged during the legislative hearing that, “You gotta work to make sure that [DPS offices] are open.”
It is now off to a “the matter will go before a three-judge panel in Washington”.