A voting rights bill introduced in Congress last week would subject Texas elections to new levels of federal scrutiny, but it would not invalidate the state’s controversial 2011 voter photo ID law that helped inspire it. The federal measure is designed to restore and improve protections to minority voters granted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions that were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. The ruling found that key sections of the act unfairly targeted southern states and did not reflect current conditions. Since the court’s decision, several states — notably Texas — have begun enforcing laws that voting rights activists have called discriminatory against African-Americans, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor.
“Texas is a state that we think, in comparison to other states that have passed similar laws, is especially draconian in placing limitations on voters,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Washington office of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.
But prominent Texas Republicans have defended the voter ID law, arguing that it is a successful deterrent to voter fraud. On Thursday, former Gov. Rick Perry called the notion that the law was designed to disenfranchise voters “a false assumption.”