No matter what Dallas County residents think about Texas’ controversial voter identification law, their tax dollars are being used to help fund the fight for it. And against it. Dallas County commissioners narrowly agreed Tuesday to join a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Perry over his intentions to implement the law requiring voters to show ID at the polls. The 3-2 vote at the Commissioners Court meeting means Dallas County taxpayers are helping fund the federal and county fights against the law, as well as the state’s battles to defend it. “It’s a dangerous precedent to be committing the Dallas County treasury for purely partisan politics,” said Mike Cantrell, the lone Republican county commissioner. Democratic Commissioner Elba Garcia bucked the party line and joined Cantrell in voting against joining the lawsuit. Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioners Theresa Daniel and John Wiley Price voted to do so. Their support allows District Attorney Craig Watkins, also a Democrat, to hire law firm Brazil & Dunn to help the county intervene in the existing lawsuit. U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and seven others sued Perry in June.
Watkins said the voter ID law disenfranchises qualified voters who lack required identification. The Dallas County Democratic party estimates that 220,000 voters in Dallas County don’t have photo ID and could be affected if the law goes into effect.
“We’re using county resources to benefit the public,” Watkins said.
Voter identification laws have become a polarizing issue across the country as Republican-controlled legislatures and governors push for such requirements. They say the laws prevent ineligible voters from casting ballots. Democrats, though, usually oppose the requirements. They say the laws keep poor residents, minorities and young voters from casting ballots by adding financial and bureaucratic hurdles.
All statewide offices and both chambers of the Texas Legislature are controlled by Republicans. Dallas County government and the U.S. Justice Department are controlled by Democrats.