(CN) – Texas sued the Department of Justice on Monday, claiming the U.S. attorney general is taking too long to clear the state’s controversial photo-ID voter identification law.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the District of Columbia Federal Court to clear the law, claiming that similar measures exist in other states.
Gov. Rick Perry signed the Voter-ID Law into law in May. It requires Texans to show a government-issued photo ID to vote. Voters who suffer from a documented disability are exempt.
Texas is one of several Southern states that require clearance from the Department of Justice or the D.C. Federal Court before it can change its voting laws. The federal Voting Rights Act requires such clearance from states that have a history of discrimination.
Texas claims “that its recently enacted Voter-ID Law, also known as Senate Bill 14, neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, nor will it deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because he is a member of a language minority group.”
Abbott claims that in September, 2 months after Texas submitted the law for clearance, the Department of Justice told the Texas Director of Elections that the information provided was “insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”
The complaint states: “DOJ’s response to the State requested, among other things, that Texas provide:
“a. The number of registered voters in Texas, by race and Spanish surname within county of residence, who currently possess a Texas driver’s license or other form of photo identification issued by DPS that is current or has expired within sixty days. Please include a description of the manner in which you calculated these numbers;
“b. For the 605,576 registered voters who the State has advised do not have a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card, please provide the number of such persons by Spanish surname, as well as an estimated number by race, within county of residence; and
“c. Describe any and all efforts, other than the requirements outlined in Section 5 of Chapter 123, to provide notice to these individuals of the requirements of S.B. 14 and the availability of a free DPS-issued identification.”
Abbott says Texas responded in October that it does not record the race of voters when they register to vote, so it was unable to determine the racial makeup of registered voters who lack state-issued identification.
“Indeed, the very reason Texas refuses to maintain racial and ethnic data on its list of registered voters is to facilitate a colorblind electoral process, and Texas adopted this race-blind voter-registration policy shortly after the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” according to the complaint.
Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement: “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional. Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections.”
Rebecca Acuña, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, blasted the lawsuit. She said Abbott is “wasting tax dollars to inquire whether the Voter ID law is discriminatory in intent or just in effect, as if it made any difference to the people being discriminated.”
Acuña says Abbott admits in the complaint the Republican-backed voter-ID law would have a disparate impact on minorities and that “he just doesn’t care.”
On its website, the Texas Democratic Party says the Secretary of State’s own data show that more than 600,000 Texans who are registered to vote do not have the identification necessary under the law, including 174,866 Texans with Spanish surnames.
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