Congressman Sues Gov. Perry Over Voting Rights & Voter ID
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - Gov. Rick Perry jumped the gun by declaring that Texas's voter ID law took effect Tuesday upon the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act, a Fort Worth congressman claims in Federal Court.
Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, sued Perry and Texas Secretary of State John Steen in Federal Court. Six people joined Veasey as plaintiffs. Veasey, who is African-American, is serving his first term in Congress after four terms in the Texas House.
Texas' Republican-dominated Legislature approved the voter ID bill, SB 14, in 2011.
But in August 2012 a three-judge U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia enjoined enforcement of the law.
"Texas bears the burden of proving that nothing in SB 14 'would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise,'" U.S. District Judge David Tatel wrote for the panel.
The bill requires Texas voters to come to the polls with photo identification, limited to a driver's license, personal identification card or concealed handgun license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID bearing the person's photo, or a U.S. citizenship certificate showing the person's photo.
The panel of judges found that Texas legislators had ignored warnings that SB 14 would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority voters because they are less likely to have the required identification.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott claimed SB 14 was necessary to prevent voter fraud.
Although SB 14 would give voters lacking an acceptable form of photo ID the option to obtain a photographic "election identification certificate" from the Texas Department of Public Safety, 81 of Texas's 254 counties lack a DPS office, the federal judges found.
"This means that many would-be voters who need to obtain an EIC - individuals who by definition have no valid driver's license - will have to find some way to travel long distances to obtain one," Tatel wrote for the panel. "This is hardly an insignificant concern, especially given that 'everything is bigger in Texas.'"
But Perry claims SB 14 became law Tuesday with the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said after that ruling was announced: "This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Texas and threw out judgments by a federal district court in D.C. that had denied federal preclearance of Texas' voter ID and redistricting laws.
"Texas had appealed those judgments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those judgments were vacated today because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that it is unconstitutional to require states like Texas to obtain advance approval from the federal government before election laws can take effect. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling eliminates all of the lower court's rulings and the findings made by the lower court against the State of Texas.
"The Texas voter ID law can go into effect. Similarly, the redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature during the special session and signed into law by Governor Perry yesterday immediately go into effect. Like voter ID, these maps will not need to go through the lengthy and costly federal preclearance process because of Tuesday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County."
But in his lawsuit, Veasey says the federal injunction against SB 14 "remains in effect."
"Presumably, the state's chief legal officer erroneously contends the D.C. court's injunction is now inoperative in light of the Shelby County decision. ... Defendants renewed efforts to implement SB 14 after Shelby County are additional acts of intentional discrimination," Veasey says in the complaint.
He seeks a declaration that SB 14 "dilutes and/or prevents the voting strength of minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act," and "is an unconstitutional election law in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution."
Veasey et al. are represented by Chad Dunn with Brazil & Dunn of Houston.
Co-plaintiffs include a disabled, wheelchair-bound African-American Army veteran who does not have photo ID; a Latina whose full name on her driver's license does not match the name on her birth certificate; two justices of the peace, a constable and a community organizer.