Thursday, September 11, 2014

Voter ID Laws in Texas and a Surprising Fact about Black Voter Turnout

by Nomad

No wonder there has been such a strong push of policies like Voter ID laws. 

Back in 2012, writer Jonathan Chait, in a New York magazine article entitled "2012 or Never," noted the phenomena of the incredible shrinking white electorate:
"Every year the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point -- meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country."
He adds:
"By 2020 nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, "nonwhites will outnumber whites."
In controversial ruling, a federal judge struck down Wisconsin's Voter ID law. This requirement had, said U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, a “disproportionate impact” on African American and Latino voters. 

According to a Washington Post article, eight states, mostly in the South, have similar laws as the Wisconsin law. And 31 states have voter ID laws, of one kind or another. Stricter requirement are scheduled to come into effect in the future. 

A few days ago, the spotlight turned to Texas, In Corpus Christi, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos will review a challenge to the state's laws from both U.S. Justice Department and civil rights groups. 
The Republican-dominated Legislature in 2011 passed a strict Voter ID law which, for some people, made it easier to by a hand gun than to vote. Hundreds of thousands of Texan voters will be affected. The target? Students, minorities, the poor and the elderly- anybody who may not possess the proper ID required by law.

As an MSNBC report noted:
Texas Republicans have said the law is needed to stop voter fraud, a favorite bete noir of Abbott’s as he campaigns for governor. But they’ve produced almost no cases of fraud that the law would have stopped.
The measure has already been called "racially discriminatory" in a federal court ruling in 2012. According to that judge, Texas’s voter ID law violated Section 5 of the the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.(VRA). 

Texas officials were unfazed. They were willing to take the chance after a Supreme Court ruling that weakened Voting Rights Act The VRA, signed by President Johnson at the height of the nationwide civil rights movement, put an end to voting discrimination that had existed since the end of the Civil War.

From now on, thanks to the Supreme Court decision, the burden of proof will be on the challengers to the Voter ID laws to show racial minorities have been discriminated against, and not for the state to prove that the laws serve a legitimate public service. (That's something they have failed to do so far.)

If the judge rules that Texas' voting requirements are discriminatory, as in the Wisconsin decision. it could throw a wrench into the gears of entire Republican push for restrictive ID measures across the country. Other states- like the same-sex marriage bans- would have to decide whether it was worth defending against similar challenges or to abandon the law altogether. 

Whatever the judge decides, given the demographic trends, it's only a matter of time before minorities voters will have their voices heard.