Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday could join a federal challenge to a controversial state law that requires voters to show photo identification. Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to hire a law firm to join a federal lawsuit at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The move would pit county leaders against state officials. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last month he is also taking aim at Texas legislators’ voting laws. Battles over voter identification laws have raged across the country in recent years. Supporters are typically Republicans. They say the laws prevent ineligible voters from casting ballots. Opponents are typically Democrats. They say such laws are designed to keep poor residents and minorities from casting ballots by adding financial and bureaucratic hurdles to voting. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and District Attorney Craig Watkins, both Democrats, said in a joint statement Monday that the law “could disenfranchise many registered voters.”
Most county-level elected officials are Democrats, including four of the five county commissioners. While many urban counties in the state are controlled by Democrats, Republicans hold every statewide office and control both the Texas House and Senate.
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, sued the state this summer arguing that the law violates the free speech and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Dallas officials’ consideration of joining that federal lawsuit drew criticism from local Republicans.
“Marc Veasey went looking for a sugar daddy and Dallas County with Clay Jenkins and Craig Watkins is coming to his aid,” said Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert.
Jenkins defended the county’s right to join the lawsuit.
“It is sad and predictable that the Republican Party Chair used sexist language to describe our efforts to protect the voting rights of African American and Hispanic citizens in Dallas County,” he said.