Imani Clark, Aurica Washington, Crystal Owens and Michelle Bessiake are students at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University, two historically black colleges in Texas. They do not have a driver’s license or own a car, and do not possess one of the five forms of government-issued identification required by Texas to vote. They can no longer vote with their students IDs in Texas, where a handgun permit is a valid voter ID but a student ID is not. The four students are among the plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of Texas’s voter ID law in federal court in Corpus Christi this week. The trial before Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama appointee, is expected to last two to three weeks. In August 2012, a three-judge district court in Washington found that the law discriminated against black and Hispanic voters under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The court called it “the most stringent [voter ID law] in the country.” But after the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder freed states like Texas with a long history of voting discrimination from having to approve their voting changes with the federal government, Texas wasted no time in implementing the blocked law. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced hours after the court’s ruling. Groups like the Justice Department, NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus are now challenging the law under Section 2 of the VRA, which remains on the books.Full Article: Will Texas Get Away With Discriminating Against Voters? | The Nation.
A previously unreported 2010 state raid of a Houston effort to register low-income voters is raising concerns from critics that the Republican favorite to become the next governor of Texas used his post to suppress voter registration efforts that could favor Democrats. In 2010, armed investigators dispatched by the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and suspecting election fraud raided the headquarters of a voter registration group called Houston Votes. A year later, the investigation was closed with no charges filed. But Houston Votes never recovered, the Dallas Morning News reported Sunday. Fred Lewis, president of Texans Together, the nonprofit parent group of Houston Votes, said the raid was over the top: “They could have used a subpoena. They could have called us and asked for the records. They didn’t need guns.” Now running for governor, Abbott declined to comment on the case. But his aides said the raid was part of an effort to preserve the integrity of Texas elections.Full Article: Critics question Abbott's 2010 Houston voter raid | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Voting Blogs: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? | Texas Election Law Blog
A surfeit of lawyers are at this moment proceeding with the second of three week-long hearings in the Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The issue is whether the State of Texas intentionally discriminated against protected classes of minority voters in the course of redistricting U.S. Congressional districts in 2011. The facts of the case as previously established are particularly unflattering to the Republican Party leadership in the Texas Legislature, and back in 2012 another Federal court already ruled that the Congressional redistricting was discriminatory, and carefully pointed out the evidence that this discrimination was intentional. Given all this, one might be inclined to ask, “what, exactly, is the State trying to accomplish in its defense of this lawsuit?” As I’ve said before, I am a terrible prognosticator of political outcomes, in part because my dogged naivety gets in the way of my cynicism. With the litigation history of the 2011 redistricting largely running against the State, I would presume that at both the trial and appellate levels, the courts would be likely to find that continued close Federal monitoring of Texas election procedures is required under Section 3(b) of the Voting Rights Act.Full Article: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? « Texas Election Law Blog.
Texans are on the hook for $3.9 million in costs for Attorney General Greg Abbott to fight for Republican-championed redistricting maps, and that number will only grow as a years-long legal fight continues Monday in federal court in San Antonio. A big tally is expected in complicated redistricting litigation, experts say, particularly with the Abbott legal team’s aggressive defense of the congressional and legislative maps approved by the GOP-majority Legislature. “Abbott’s attitude has been very much ‘I’m going to litigate this to the ends of the earth,'” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law. Abbott’s staff said he simply is doing his job as the state’s top lawyer and that the responsibility for the costs lies with those who have challenged the maps. Democrats said Abbott is using taxpayer funds as an ATM to defend discriminatory maps. Minority and civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, originally mounted the redistricting challenges in 2011.Full Article: Taxpayers' tab for redistricting battle nears $4 million - Houston Chronicle.
It’s far too soon to make any predictions. But a recent decision by a federal judge in the challenge to Texas’s harsh voter ID law may augur well for the chances of getting the law struck down when it goes to trial in September. Overturning the law would be a massive win for the Obama administration, which is spearheading the challenge, and could boost Democrats’ long-term hopes of competing in Texas. It would be an embarrassing defeat for Gov. Rick Perry and for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is highlighting his defense of the law as he runs to succeed Perry as governor. The law, passed in 2011 with strong support from Perry, imposes the strictest ID requirement in the nation. It requires that Texans show one of a narrow range of state or federal IDs. Gun licenses are accepted, but student IDs, and even out-of-state driver’s licenses, aren’t. Finding that it would disproportionately affect minority voters, a federal court blocked the law in 2012 under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state to get federal approval for its voting laws. But hours after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 last year, Abbott announced that the law would go into effect.Full Article: Texas voter ID law must stand trial, judge rules | MSNBC.
Adrian Heath was recently sentenced to three years in prison and slapped with a $10,000 fine, and he has become an unlikely face for voter fraud in Texas. His sentencing in a Montgomery County court capped a four-year journey that began with Heath’s plan to bring more oversight to a special utility district and ended with Heath a convicted felon. Heath’s interest was in The Woodlands Road Utility District, a 2,400-acre taxing body that weaves through the suburb. The district was collecting taxes to pay off bond debt and Heath wanted a say. He argued that even though his home wasn’t exactly in the district — few residences were — it imposed taxes indirectly on him because he did much of his shopping and dining there. “We learned there was an election pending,” Heath said. “Three seats open. So we said, ‘Why don’t we just get some people to run for those seats?'” In May 2010, Heath, along with a handful of his neighbors booked rooms at a Residence Inn inside the Road Utility District.Full Article: Man gets three years in prison for casting a single vote | abc13.com.
A state district judge has thrown out a complaint filed against the Democratic outreach group Battleground Texas that was based on a conservative filmmaker’s video, a special prosecutor said Monday. Special prosecutor John Economidy, a Republican, told The Associated Press that he and fellow special prosecutor Christine Del Prado, a Democrat, determined that Battleground Texas did not violate state election law by transcribing phone numbers submitted on voter registration forms. San Antonio Judge Raymond Angelini signed the dismissal without comment on Friday, Economidy added. The inquiry began after conservative activist James O’Keefe and his group, Project Veritas, made a video that purported to show Battleground Texas workers talking about transcribing telephone numbers from voter registration cards they’d collected. O’Keefe said in the video that taking phone numbers violated Texas law, and Republican leaders, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, called for a criminal investigation.Full Article: Judge stops investigation into Battleground Texas.
The Texas Secretary of State referred three complaints against Democratic group Battleground Texas for possible prosecution as violations of a state election law on Friday. Battleground Texas issued a statement, saying it has done nothing wrong and that the complaints and referrals were partisan attempts to slow the group. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, which would normally investigate further, recused itself and forwarded the complaints in a letter to Susan Reed, the district attorney in Bexar County, where one of the violations allegedly took place. Abbott is running for governor against Democrat Wendy Davis, whom Battleground Texas is assisting by registering voters, building a supporter database and ultimately mobilizing those voters for the Nov. 4 general election.Full Article: State officials investigating Democratic activists - Wire Politics - The Sacramento Bee.
Election Day on November 5 marked the first time Texas’ controversial voter ID laws were affected in the state. And the results were mixed. There is little evidence that the law suppressed voter turnout. Out of the state’s 13.4 million registered voters, only 1.1 million cast ballots in the 2013 election, about 8.5 percent of the electorate. Compare this to 2011 and 2009, other election “off years.” In 2011 when only 5.4 percent of voters showed up. In 2009, about 1 million people cast ballots, about 8.1 percent of the electorate. So as far as the numbers go, voting seemed on par. However, the law lost some PR points with some high publicity hiccups, including several prominent politicians initially being told they couldn’t get a new voter identification card vote because they lacked proper identification. State Senator Wendy Davis, the front-running Democratic candidate for governor next year, had to sign an affidavit because her married name did not match her driver’s license . State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a champion of the law was also flagged because his license listed his name as “Gregory Wayne Abbott” while his voter registration record simply calls him “Greg Abbott.” And former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright couldn’t get his new voter ID at first because his driver’s license had expired.Full Article: Messing with Texas: Election Passes, But Litigation Continues : State of Elections.
Texas: Voter identification: Mischief at the polls – How Texas’s new voter-identity law works in practice | The Economist
When Texas passed its new voter-identification law, in 2011, the Republicans who dominate state politics rejoiced. This, they said, would help guarantee “the integrity of state elections”. Nonsense, said Democrats, who accuse Republicans of using voter-ID laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote. Republicans retort that electoral fraud is real. In 2012 Texas’s attorney-general, Greg Abbott, boasted that his office had caught more than 50 cheats between 2002 and 2012. That is not a big number, among the more than 13m registered voters in Texas. But it is not nothing. In November Texans (at least, those with a state-issued photo ID) had their first chance to vote since the law was implemented. The delay was caused by the usual legal wrangling round voter-ID laws. In 2012 a federal court blocked Texas’s law from taking effect. Similarly strict regulations were already in place elsewhere, but under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Texas was subject to federal “preclearance” on any new voting rules. “Preclearance” is a sort of naughty step for states that, in the past, have hindered voting by minorities. The Texan law was therefore in limbo until June, when the Supreme Court addressed the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v Holder, a dispute between an Alabama county and the attorney-general of the United States, Eric Holder.Full Article: Voter identification: Mischief at the polls | The Economist.
Voting Blogs: State of Texas files final brief on effort to dismiss voter ID suits | Texas Redistricting
The State of Texas filed a reply brief today defending Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s position that the voter ID suits filed by the Justice Department and by African-American and Hispanic voters should be dismissed without need for a trial. In addition to challenging the standing of some of the individual and organizational plaintiffs, the brief reiterated the state’s contention that the claims should be dismissed because the Texas voter ID law was “no more difficult than ‘the usual burdens of voting’” and argued that the plaintiffs had failed to “produce or allege the existence of any person, of any race, who could not get a free EIC because of anything other than what may be fairly characterized as that person’s choice.”Full Article: State of Texas files final brief on effort to dismiss voter ID suits | TEXAS REDISTRICTING & ELECTION LAW.
Texas’ new voter ID laws could cause voting delays of up to six hours in upcoming elections. About 14,000 voters were delayed while attempting to vote in Dallas County on Nov. 5, the Dallas Morning News reported. Thousands of Texas voters signed affidavits or cast provisional ballots because their name on the voting rolls didn’t exactly match their name on their photo ID. The affidavit testifies that the voter is who they say they are. If a voter refuses to sign an affidavit, they could cast a provisional ballot. The number of provisional ballots — 1,365 — is more than double the number from a similar election in 2011. It is unclear how many people signed affidavits, but two of the leading candidates for Texas governor in 2013, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis, both had to sign them. Davis’ driver’s license reads “Wendy Russell Davis,” while Abbott’s says “Gregory Wayne Abbott.”Full Article: Nov. Election Shows Texas Voter ID Means Long Wait At The Polls.
Texas: Federal Judge Denies Abbott’s Motion To Move Voter ID Trial To After 2014 Election | Texas Public Radio
Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi has denied Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to move a lawsuit challenging Texas’ Voter ID law to a March trial date in 2015. Opening arguments will begin a few months before state general elections in September 2014. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, the head of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and a plaintiff in the case, said Abbott’s request of the court is more about political ambitions. “I think this is more along the lines of Attorney General Greg Abbott wanting to pull off some kind of political amnesia,” Martinez Fischer said. “I think he’s more or less trying to clean his hands of the mess that he’s created.”Full Article: Federal Judge Denies Abbott’s Motion To Move Voter ID Trial To After 2014 Election | Texas Public Radio.
Delays at the polls this month due to glitches with voters’ identifications could signal a bigger problem to come next year, when many more turn out for state and county elections. Thousands of voters had to sign affidavits or cast provisional ballots on Nov. 5 — the first statewide election held under the state’s new voter identification law — because their name on the voter rolls did not exactly match the name on their photo ID. It took most only a short time, but election officials are concerned that a few minutes per voter to carefully check names and photos against voter registration cards, and then to have voters sign affidavits or fill out provisional paperwork, could snowball into longer waits and more frustration. A review by The Dallas Morning News found that 1,365 provisional ballots were filed in the state’s 10 largest counties. In most of them, the number of provisional ballots cast more than doubled from 2011, the last similar election, to 2013. Officials had no exact count for how many voters had to sign affidavits, but estimates are high. Among those who had to sign affidavits were the leading candidates for governor next year, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis.Full Article: Voter ID woes could soar in higher-turnout elections, officials fear | Dallas Morning News.
A federal court in Corpus Christi will decide this week whether or not to postpone the trial date for a case challenging the constitutionality of the Texas voter ID law. About a week ago, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos set the trial date for Sept. 2, 2014, about two months before the 2014 State General Election. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office filed a request this week asking for the trial to be pushed back to March 2015.Full Article: Voter ID Case May Be Postponed Until After 2014 Election | Texas Public Radio.
A federal judge has set a September 2014 trial date for a lawsuit seeking to overturn Texas’ Voter ID — just ahead of a pivotal general election. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said Friday the trial will start September 2 in Corpus Christi. Opponents hope to halt the law before next year’s much-watched election. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running to replace Governor Rick Perry in 2014, is defending the 2011 law. His office declined to comment Friday. The law requires Texans to show one of six forms of identification at the polls.Full Article: Texas Voter ID Case Gets September 2014 Trial Date « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth.
Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general of Texas, campaigned long and loud for the state’s new voter ID law. The law is a transparent effort to tilt elections in the state to Republicans by suppressing the minority vote, which is becoming more important as Texas’s demographics shift. So it was a rich irony that Mr. Abbott, who is running for governor, himself set off alarms as a suspicious voter the other day, along with a state judge, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, former speaker of the House Jim Wright and uncounted and unnamed others who tried to vote on a set of state constitutional amendments. The new law, passed by the GOP-dominated state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, masquerades as a tool to combat election fraud. In fact, as in other states that have enacted similar measures, there is no statistically significant — or even insignificant — evidence of in-person fraud at the polls in Texas.Full Article: Texas holds ’em voteless with new ID law - The Washington Post.
Texas: Voter ID Law Ensnares Former Speaker of the House, Candidates for Governor, State Judge | The Nation
Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright has voted in every election since 1944 and represented Texas in Congress for thirty-four years. But when he went to his local Department of Public Safety office to obtain the new voter ID required to vote—which he never needed in any previous election—the 90-year-old Wright was denied. His driver’s license is expired and his Texas Christian University faculty ID is not accepted as a valid form of voter ID. To be able to vote in Texas, including in Tuesday’s election for statewide constitutional amendments, Wright’s assistant will have to get a certified copy of his birth certificate, which costs $22. According to the state of Texas, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters in Texas don’t have a valid form of government-issued photo ID. Wright is evidently one of them. But unlike Wright, most of these voters will not have an assistant or the political connections of a former Speaker of the House to help them obtain a birth certificate to prove their identify, nor can they necessarily make two trips to the DMV office or afford a birth certificate. The devil is in the details when it comes to voter ID. And the rollout of the new law in Texas is off to a very bad start. “I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”Full Article: Texas Voter ID Law Ensnares Former Speaker of the House, Candidates for Governor, State Judge | The Nation.
Texas: Voter ID law frustrates some candidates; state argues lawsuit should be dismissed | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
The new law requiring Texas voters show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot is working as intended, according to state officials. And the proof is in the two weeks of early voting that ended Friday. “I gave my driver’s license and it went as advertised,” Gov. Rick Perry — whose full name is James Richard Perry — told reporters after he voted Wednesday. “The elections are going quite well,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, we had a substantial bigger turnout from 2011.” This was in reference to the previous vote on constitutional amendments when less than 6 percent of Texas voters went to the polls. This year, the Texas Legislature is asking the electorate to approve nine propositions, particularly one that would allow the lawmakers to withdraw $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to begin funding water projects. However, for state Sen. Wendy Davis, who hopes to replace Perry when his current four-year term expires in early 2015, it was a slightly different experience when she voted Monday. Davis, D-Fort Worth, had to sign an affidavit before voting because the names on her voter registration card and driver’s license are slightly different: Wendy Davis on her voter card and Wendy Russell Davis on her driver’s license. The same thing happened to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the perceived Republican frontrunner in the 2014 gubernatorial race: His name on his driver’s license is Gregory Wayne Abbott but on his voter card it’s Greg Abbott. End of the story in the two-year voter ID fight? Not quite.Full Article: Voter ID law frustrates some candidates; state argues lawsuit should be dismissed | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, is leading to a new era of voter suppression that parallels the pre-1960s era—this time affecting not just African-Americans but also Hispanic-Americans, women, and students, among others. The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths. In North Carolina, a post-Shelby County law not only includes one of the most restrictive and punitive vote-ID laws anywhere but also restricts early voting, eliminates same-day voting registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and bans many provisional ballots. Whatever flimsy voter-fraud excuse exists for requiring voter ID disappears when it comes to these other obstacles to voting. In Texas, the law could require voters to travel as much as 250 miles to obtain an acceptable voter ID—and it allows a concealed-weapon permit, but not a student ID, as proof of identity for voting. Moreover, the law and the regulations to implement it, we are now learning, will create huge impediments for women who have married or divorced and have voter IDs and driver’s licenses that reflect maiden or married names that do not exactly match. It raises similar problems for Mexican-Americans who use combinations of mothers’ and fathers’ names.Full Article: The Right to Vote - NationalJournal.com.