A pending law that would require Texas voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot has temporarily overshadowed the long redistricting battle the state is fighting with minority groups and civil rights organizations. The intensity of the latest legal battle became evident this week. First, on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal court in Washington for a delay of a July 9 trial that would determine whether the law the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature approved in last year’s session is constitutional. Then, on Tuesday, San Antonio Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer accused the Republican super majority of creating significant obstacles for a good number of Texans — mainly the poor and the elderly — to vote. And for its part, the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is representing the state in both legal battles, stressed the significance of the voter ID legislation on hold. “The Department of Justice has been seeking and receiving information since last summer,” Abbott’s deputy communications director, Lauren Bean, said in a statement. “They’ve had plenty of time to get ready for trial and still have two-and-half more months.
“The time for complaining is over, and the time to get this matter decided is now,” Bean added. “The DOJ and the intervening parties are fighting to prevent implementation of the state’s voter ID law. This motion is nothing more than foot dragging and delay in an attempt to avoid resolving this case.”
The latest legal battle centers on whether the pending law discriminates against Texas voters for whom getting photo identification is difficult, particularly for the poor, the elderly, people with disabilities and even college students living away from home. For Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, “This is a manufactured problem.” In a conference call with reporters in which he was joined by two election law experts, Martinez Fischer said out of 13 million ballots cast in Texas in the last two elections, there was only one proven case of fraud.