Republicans used their majority in 2011 to muscle through the Legislature a controversial voter ID law and new redistricting maps – and ever since Texas taxpayers have been picking up the bill for the state to defend those measures in courts. Texas’ total legal tab to date: more than $8 million, according to data obtained under the state’s Public Information Act. And there’s no immediate end in sight to the court action, which means the price tag is only set to climb for Texas’ efforts to preserve its redrawing of political boundaries and its strict law to require photo identification to vote. Critics of the Republican-championed plans say state leaders have essentially thrown taxpayer money down the drain to defend what they argue are policies intended to discriminate against minorities.
“That $8 million is already an enormous waste of taxpayer money in Texas,” said Gerry Hebert, a prominent election lawyer involved in redistricting and voter ID lawsuits against the state. “As long as Texas continues to be dominated by state officials who are intent on suppressing minority voters there will be more litigation.” Republicans four years ago passed both the landmark voter ID law and redistricting maps over threats from Democrats who vowed that the courts would have the final say on both issues. Texas has been locked in litigation ever since.
Cases brought by several minority and civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are challenging the two Texas laws. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the effort opposing Texas’ voter ID and redistricting maps in 2013.
State officials say the multi-million dollar legal expense by the attorney general is justified because the office is required to defend laws passed by the Legislature. In this case, they argue, taxpayer money is being spent to battle “partisan advocates.”