Texas: Justice Department says Texas legislators should be forced to testify about Voter ID law | Chron.com

U.S. Justice Department lawyers told a federal three-judge panel today that Texas state legislators should not be shielded from testifying in a case centering on the legality of the state’s new Voter ID law. But lawyers for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said deposing statehouse Republicans to determine legislative intent of the new photo ID law amounted to a “fishing expedition” by Justice Department attorneys. The judges, Circuit Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer, are expected to rule soon on motions to expedite proceedings.

Texas: Filing Targets Texas Lawmakers’ Voter ID Communications | The Texas Tribune

In the latest development in Texas’ battle with the Obama administration over the state’s voter ID law, the U.S. Department of Justice is urging a federal court to deny the state’s request to keep certain communications between lawmakers, staff and constituents out of upcoming court proceedings. In a court filing dated Thursday, the department argued that it should be allowed to “depose those legislators believed to have had the most active role in drafting, introducing, and advocating for SB 14.” The law requires that voters furnish photo identification before casting a ballot. The filing was in response to the state’s request for a protective order, in which it argues that the communications in question should be excluded based on state privilege.

Texas: State Tries To Keep Voter ID Debate Secret | TPM

The state of Texas wants the discussions their Republican legislators had about passing a voter ID law to stay secret. Texas, which sued the federal government in an attempt to have their voter ID law approved, said in a court filing last month that “communications between members of the state legislature, communications between state legislators and their staff, and communications between state legislators and their constituents” should be protected by legislative privilege. The state also tried to prevent officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from deposing legislators who supported the voter ID legislation known as SB 14.

National: Voter ID Laws Study: Voter Fraud Even Rarer Than Winning Mega Millions | @PolicyMic

You are more likely to win Mega Millions that commit voter fraud in the US according to this study. The Justice Department recently blocked a Texas law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at polls on the grounds that it disproportionately disenfranchised Hispanics. The state sued the government in response, and the law is scheduled to be disputed in a federal trial in July. Although voter fraud is a problem that should not be overlooked, I side with the Justice Department, as this law would negatively impact more people than the number of cases of voter fraud.  There is much ambiguity surrounding the issue of voter fraud. Only a few studies have measured the prevalence of fraud, such as this study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice which showed that voter fraud is even rarer than being struck by lightning or winning the Mega Millions. But disenfranchisement of minority groups is very real. By disregarding an important component of the state’s population, Texas’ law creates a predetermined electoral  outcome, prohibits an entire demographic from voicing their own opinions, and obstructs a key cornerstone of democracy in order to produce desired results.

Wisconsin: Voter ID filed with Wisconsin Supreme Court | The Badger Herald

Two Wisconsin Courts of Appeals asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday to take up two separate lawsuits against the voter ID law approved last year for a final ruling on whether the law should be enforced. One of the lawsuits was filed jointly by immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, while the other lawsuit was filed by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Although recent injunctions in Circuit Courts have halted enforcement of the photo ID requirement in the April 3 elections, the groups still claim the law disenfranchises voters in the state. The decision to ask the Supreme Court to take up the cases falls less than a week before the April 3 elections, which include the Republican presidential primary along with a number of local elections.

Wisconsin: Voter ID challenges may be headed to Supreme Court | JSOnline

Two legal challenges to Wisconsin photo identification requirement for voters seem to be headed for the state’s highest court. On Wednesday, two separate appeals courts sent challenges to the law on to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to take up the issue. To do that, a majority of the seven-member court must decide to take up the cases as requested by the appeals court. Earlier this month, two Dane County judges in different cases separately ruled to block the law, which requires citizens to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. The Supreme Court will have little time to decide whether to bring back the law before Tuesday’s spring elections. Elections over whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker and four Republican senators could also be ordered as soon as May 8 and June 5. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin brought one of the two lawsuits, saying that the state went too far in requiring photo ID to vote. “The League of Women Voters is confident that we have a strong case built on clear language in the Wisconsin state constitution.

Editorials: Ending Discriminatory Voter ID: Let’s Affirm The Right To Vote | AlterNet

The time has come for a national conversation about guaranteeing the right to vote—based on one’s legal eligibility, and not the form of ID in their wallet. On March 14, Pennsylvania became the eighth state to toughen voter ID requirements in the past year, following Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. While these voter ID laws take many forms, the most restrictive require voters to obtain a government-issued photo ID to get a ballot on Election Day, which voting rights advocates say could deter several million people who lack birth certificates and other documentation from obtaining the ID and voting. To date, the conversation on voter ID has followed well-worn contours. Legislative advocates for these laws, almost all Republicans, claim that they uphold election “integrity” by curbing voter impersonation fraud. Opponents say the laws are policing a problem that barely exists and that current law enforcement aptly addresses. In addition, the laws intentionally place unfair requirements on specific demographic sectors that lean Democratic, which can ultimately lead to disenfranchisement.

Texas: Cheating rarely seen at polls in Texas | San Antonio Express-News

Allegations of voter fraud fueled the successful push for a controversial voter ID law in Texas last year, making a picture ID necessary to vote despite scant evidence of actual cheating at the polls. Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated. The Department of Justice has deemed the law in violation of the Voting Rights Act, finding that it would disproportionately affect minorities, who are less likely to have a photo ID.

Texas: Federal judges want quick decision on legality of Texas voter ID law | Chron.com

A federal three-judge panel in Washington is pushing the Justice Department and Texas lawyers to work overtime to reach a quick decision on the legality of the state’s controversial voter photo ID law. The judges made it clear they want a decision in time for Texas to be able to implement its law — provided it passes legal muster — by the November general election. “It’s a big election year. We need to get it done,” District Judge Rosemary Collyer told federal and state lawyers in a telephone conference call. The judges have conducted recent conference calls with lawyers in an open courtroom, allowing media representatives to listen to the discussions as all sides haggle over timelines of depositions and discovery. Reaching a quick decision will not be easy.

Texas: State tries to keep legislators from giving depositions on Texas voter ID | Statesman.com

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott this week asked a federal court in Washington to prevent 12 state lawmakers from giving depositions in the state’s voter identification case. The U.S. Department of Justice, which is facing off against Abbott’s office in a case to allow Texas’ voter ID law to go into effect, has asked to depose — or question under oath — the author of the voter ID bill, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay; its House sponsor, Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring; and other lawmakers. Texas’ voter ID law, which passed last spring, would require a voter to present a valid form of government-issued photo identification — such as a Texas driver’s license, Department of Public Safety-issued ID card, military card, passport, citizenship certificate or Texas concealed gun license — before casting a ballot.

Editorials: The GOP Assault on the Voting Rights Act | Ben Adler/The Nation

Last week the Department of Justice denied preclearance to Texas’s law requiring voters to present photo identification under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states and jurisdictions with a demonstrated history of passing discriminatory election laws to get approval from the DOJ for any change to laws governing the time, place or manner in which an election is conducted. Within days Texas filed a challenge in federal court arguing that Section 5 is unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott maintains that the federal government exceeded its authority and violated the Tenth Amendment when it passed the measure. Conservative opponents of civil rights are eager to see that challenge succeed. Writing in National Review—which opposed the civil rights movement—vice chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and conservative scholar Abigail Thernstrom argues that Section 5 is outdated. National Review’s evolution on the subject is the standard conservative slither on civil rights. First you oppose it. Then, when society has evolved and you look like a bigot, you accept it. Then, as soon as humanly possible, you argue it was necessary at the time but no longer is.

Editorials: Bet on the feds to throttle the Mississippi’s new voter ID law | The Clarion-Ledger

Set aside for a moment your actual opinion of whether Mississippi’s new voter ID laws are a necessary safeguard against voter fraud and consider only the fact that 2012 is year in which an incumbent Democrat is seeking re-election to the White House. Consider, too, that Democratic President Barack Obama appointed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the U.S. Justice Department, which continues to hold tremendous sway over election law in Mississippi through our state’s undeniable status as a “covered jurisdiction” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Covered jurisdiction” states, counties and municipalities cannot implement voting law changes without federal “preclearance” by the Justice Department.

Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board concerned about last-minute rule change on Voter ID | WSAU

With a statewide election coming up in just a few weeks, the state’s top election official says immediate appeals of court injunctions blocking Wisconsin’s Voter ID requirement could cause too much confusion. The injunctions were issued by two Dane County judges who, in rulings tied to separate lawsuits, found there is enough evidence to show the Voter ID law approved by lawmakers last year could be unconstitutional. The Department of Justice has appealed both decisions, although state Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says they advised the Attorney General that a quick reversal could cause problems during next month’s election. Kennedy says it would be better if nothing changed between now and April 3rd, when local elections and the state’s presidential primary are scheduled to take place.

Wisconsin: Top election official says he did not want immediate appeals of photo ID law | JSOnline

The state’s top election official said Tuesday he told the state Department of Justice he did not want to immediately appeal two decisions blocking the state’s new law requiring photo IDs at the polls because voters should have plenty of advance knowledge of what rules will be in place for the April 3 election. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen did not heed that request and on Thursday appealed both decisions. “We advised the attorney general’s office that it would be better if nothing changed before April 3,” said Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board. “We don’t want the public in a yo-yo type situation.” Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for Van Hollen’s Department of Justice, said in a statement the best way to prevent voter confusion would be for the appeals courts to quickly reinstate the photo ID requirement.

National: The Voting Wars Could Get Bloody | TPM

The key electoral battle in 2012 might be less about who you cast a ballot for, than about whether you get to cast a ballot at all. Yes, the voting wars are heating up just in time for the 2012 elections. And between the Justice Department’s opposition to voter ID laws in two states and several other state and federal cases brought against such laws by various civil rights organizations, the battles are only just beginning. The Justice Department has already blocked restrictive voting laws in South Carolina, Florida and Texas, and state suits in response may see the Supreme Court take up a direct challenge to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act this year.

National: Behind the brewing voter ID war | The Washington Post

Every election cycle, voter ID laws cause controversy. But the 2010 Republican wave in state government and aggressive pushback from the Justice Department have combined to create a clash that could end at the Supreme Court. The fight over voter ID is almost entirely along party lines. Republicans argue that voter ID is a necessary protection against voter fraud while Democrats counter that fraud is used as an excuse to suppress turnout among elderly, poor and minority voters who may have more difficulty obtaining proper ID. (Evidence of widespread fraud is scant.) Here’s an update on where it stands, across the country.

Editorials: How Voter ID Laws Are Being Used to Disenfranchise Minorities and the Poor | Andrew Cohen/The Atlantic

First, let’s call it what it is. The burgeoning battles over state redistricting and voter ID laws — and the larger fight over a key part of the Voting Rights Act itself — are all cynical expressions of the concerns many conservatives (of both parties) have about the future of the American electorate. The Republican lawmakers who are leading the fight for the restrictive legislation say they are doing so in the name of stopping election fraud — and, really, who’s in favor of election fraud? But the larger purpose and effect of the laws is to disenfranchise Hispanic voters, other minorities, and the poor — most of whom, let’s also be clear, vote for Democrats. Jonathan Chait, in a smart recent New York magazine piece titled “2012 or Never,” offered some numbers supporting the theory. “Every year,” Chait wrote, “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.” This explains, for example, why Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona are turning purple instead of staying red. “By 2020,” Chait writes, “nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, “nonwhites will outnumber whites.”

Texas: Voter ID: ‘good’ elections or a mugging? | mySA.com

Gov. Rick Perry defended the state’s controversial Voter ID law Friday during on a Fox news interview when he complained about interference from the federal government. The Justice Department on Monday rejected the state’s Voter ID law because state officials failed to demonstrate the election changes would not make it harder for minorities to vote. Because of historic discrimination against minority voters, federal law requires Texas to prove its case before making any election changes. Texas is suing to overturn the 1965 law. “Here we are in 2012 and the idea that somehow or another a southern state, Texas in particular, a state that is a majority minority in our public schools now, is somehow or another being discriminatory toward minorities, I think, is a vestige of fear tactics that have been used through the years, and frankly, don’t hold water anymore,” Perry said in the interview. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” the governor added. … The vote to pass the bill into law, however, reflected a strong partisan perspective.

Virginia: Cuccinelli says Virginia’s voter ID bill has ‘50-50’ chance surviving federal review | The Washington Post

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) says Virginia’s voter identification bills, passed last week by the General Assembly, have a “50-50” chance of surviving a review by the U.S. Justice Department. The federal government has already moved to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, saying they would disproportionately harm minority voters. “Given what they’re doing with the others states, I don’t know,’’ Cuccinelli told C-SPAN. “I’d give about a 50 50 shot.’’ Republican legislatures nationwide have been adopting stricter identification standards since the 2000 presidential election, saying they are needed to combat voter fraud.

Virginia: New voter ID legislation expected to face less opposition from DOJ than others | The Washington Post

Just days before the Obama administration blocked a Texas voter ID law, Virginia’s General Assembly approved a pair of voter ID bills of its own. GOP legislatures nationwide have been adopting stricter identification standards since the 2000 presidential election, saying they are needed to combat voter fraud. Virginia jumped on the bandwagon just as the Justice Department has decided to crack down on the trend. The department contends that the Texas law, and a South Carolina measure it blocked in December, would disproportionately harm minority voters. But some observers say Virginia’s legislation is less likely to draw Justice objections than the Texas and South Carolina legislation, which required voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls.

National: A.F.L.-C.I.O. Takes On Voter ID Laws | NYTimes.com

A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials on Wednesday denounced the voter identification laws enacted in a dozen states and vowed to mount their biggest voter registration and protection efforts ever to counter these laws, which they said could disenfranchise millions of voters. Union leaders, gathered here for their annual winter meeting, held a news conference to attack the laws, saying that Republican governors and Republican-dominated legislatures had enacted them to make voting harder for numerous Democratic-leaning groups, including students, minorities, elderly and the poor. “Although they’re called voter ID laws, they are in fact voter suppression laws,” said Arlene Holt Baker, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s executive vice president. “If you are able to suppress the voice and vote of these groups of people, you have in fact been able to destroy democracy.”

Pennsylvania: House passes voter ID bill | philly.com

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has approved the so-called Voter ID bill, setting the stage for Pennsylvania to become the 16th state to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The House on Wednesday voted 104-to-88 – and almost strictly along partisan lines — to pass the measure, which would be in effect in time for the fall presidential election. Gov. Corbett has said he will sign it “right away.” Democrats, civil liberties groups, labor unions, the NAACP and others have complained that the bill will disproportionately hurt the elderly, the poor and the disabled, who make up the lion’s share of voters who typically do not have photo IDs. Those groups also tend to vote Democratic. Other states with voter ID laws have been facing legal challenges. In Texas, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil right division on Monday objected to a photo voter identification law because it found it would have a greater impact on Hispanic voters. As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas is required under the Voting Rights Act to get advance approval of voting changes from either the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Texas: State Attorney General Seeking to Challenge Voting Rights Act | ABC News

Texas on Wednesday asked a federal panel weighing its photo ID requirement for voters to allow its attorneys to challenge the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, taking a direct shot at the statue that has blocked the state from enforcing tightened voter requirements. In a filing to a three-judge panel in Washington, Texas asked to submit a petition charging that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act “exceeds the enumerated powers of Congress and conflicts with Article IV of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.” As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas is required under that section of the Voting Rights Act to get advance approval of voting changes from either the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in Washington. The provision dates from 1965, but was upheld in 2006 after Congress found that discrimination still exists in the areas where it was historically a problem.

Texas: Voting Rights Act is attacked | San Antonio Express-News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has opened a new front in the state’s war with the federal government over election law, directly challenging the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The new argument was voiced Wednesday in a lawsuit that asks a federal court in Washington, D.C., to approve Texas’ controversial Voter ID law, which the U.S. Department of Justice blocked Monday citing concerns that up to a million eligible voters could be harmed. The lawsuit challenges a requirement for states with a history of discriminating against minority voters, including Texas, to submit proposed election law changes to the federal government for approval. Either the Justice Department or a federal court must determine the changes will not disenfranchise minority voters before they can take effect, a process known as preclearance.

Editorials: Voter ID rules: A solution in search of a problem | The Washington Post

For the second time in three months, the Obama administration has blocked a state law pushed by Republicans that, using the pretext of a nearly nonexistent problem of voting fraud, discriminates against minority voters by establishing more stringent voter ID rules. Memo to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell: You might be next. In December, the Justice Department moved against South Carolina, saying its new law would suppress turnout among African American voters, who are more likely than other voters to lack identification. On Monday, the department blocked Texas from enforcing a similar measure requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls, which federal officials said would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.

Texas: Justice Department Blocks Texas Law on Photo ID for Voting | NYTimes.com

The Justice Department’s civil rights division on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a new law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, contending that the law would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible Hispanic voters. The decision, which follows a similar move in December blocking a law in South Carolina, brought the Obama administration deeper into the politically and racially charged fight over a wave of new voting restrictions, enacted largely by Republicans in the name of combating voter fraud.

Texas: Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Latinos, Justice Department Says | Fox News

A controversial law requiring Texas voters to show a photo ID at the polls remains unenforceable because it discriminates against Latinos, the Department of Justice said Monday. In a letter to the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said registered Latino voters are almost twice as likely as non-Latinos not to have a photo identification. Somewhere between 6.3 and 10.8 percent of registered Latino voters in Texas do not have a state-issued photo ID.

Wisconsin: Judge rules voter ID law unconstitutional | JSOnline

A Dane County judge struck down the state’s new voter ID law on Monday – the second judge in a week to block the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. “A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote – imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote. “It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution. This is precisely what 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 does with its photo ID mandates.” Niess’ eight-page ruling goes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday’s order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised to quickly appeal the decision.

National: Voting Rights Act: Is Obama letting the civil rights law die before the Supreme Court kills it? | Slate

When Georgia’s Republican leaders redrew the state’s election-district maps last year, Democrats and minorities instantly cried foul. In an increasingly diverse state where 47 percent of voters chose Obama in 2008, the new maps looked likely to hand the GOP 10 of the state’s 14 seats in Congress. Perhaps even more significantly, they were drawn so as to give Republicans a shot at a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the state legislature, allowing them to pass constitutional amendments unilaterally. They achieved this in part by “packing” the state’s black voters (who overwhelmingly vote Democratic) into a handful of districts in order to make others more solidly white (and Republican).

Fortunately for the state’s Democrats, federal law seemed to offer a time-tested remedy. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark civil rights bill passed in 1965 to crack down on poll taxes and other discriminatory practices, requires Georgia and a number of other Southern states to get federal approval for any changes to their voting laws. Any that harmed minorities’ chances of fair representation were to be thrown out. And that’s exactly what Georgia Democrats expected Obama’s Department of Justice to do with Republicans’ new maps. Just two years earlier, it had invoked Section 5 to block two Georgia voter-verification laws. Liberals gleefully predicted the Republican gerrymanders would likewise be “DOA at the DOJ.”

Voting Blogs: New Federal Lawsuit Provides U.S. DoJ Golden Opportunity to Challenge Polling Place Photo ID Restrictions Under Section 2 of Voting Rights Act | BradBlog

Last September’s hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights established that polling place photo ID restriction laws have nothing to do with eliminating “voter fraud.” They are, instead, part of what Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights litigator at The Advancement Project, described at the time as the “largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era” — part of the partisan, multi-state effort by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP exercise in voter suppression. Her testimony established, yet again, that such laws have a disparate impact upon minorities, the poor, the elderly and students (all of whom happen to have the unfortunate tendency of voting Democratic).