In our post about the Department of Justice’s rejection of Texas’s photo voter ID law I highlighted the comment of Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans Von Spakovsky who said the ruling was wrong because, “The Texas law isn’t any different than the Georgia and Indiana voter ID laws,” which were both allowed to go into effect. This is obviously wrong based off the clear differences in the demographics and ID law requirements between the states. But in the Latino Decisions blog today, scholars Gabriel R. Sanchez, Stephen A. Nuño, and Matt A. Barreto pointed out yet another glaring difference. As read in their post “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Access to Photo-ID in Texas”:
The Texas case is based on the requirement of the Voting Rights Act that jurisdictions that have a history of suppressing minority voting, such as Texas, must provide evidence that any changes to voting rules would not have a disproportionate effect on minority voters. This is an important difference from the Crawford v. Marion County Election Board decision of the Supreme Court which upheld the stringent photo identification policy for voters of Indiana, but did not involve the higher standards of the Voting Rights Act.
Voter ID proponents need to be careful in comparing the Indiana photo voter ID law (as referenced above by the Crawford v. Marion County Election Board case) to Texas as these are not apples-to-apples comparisons. When dealing with states like Texas, which are subject to Section 5 under VRA, these laws have to survive thresholds that prove they have no discriminatory effect on voters of color, lest they begin to resemble Jim Crow voter practices of the past. A better comparison is Texas to Florida, which both have huge Latino populations (though clear differences in ethnic compositions) and both have covered jurisdictions under the Voting Rights Act for past voting discrimination. Georgia is a unique case and I’ll get to that in another blog.
Meanwhile, the way to measure discriminatory impacts is to use data to find out how many minorities — Latino Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans — would face barriers to their right to vote. The Department of Justice gave plenty of such data in their letter to Texas and much of it mirrored the findings of Sanchez, Nuno and Barreto whose report a year ago found that there were substantial differences between white and minority populations when it comes to having ID that would pass muster under various states’ photo voter ID laws.
While that report dealt with multiple states (including Texas and Florida) where large populations of voters of color reside, today’s Latino Decisions blog extrapolates the data of Texas to show just what the discrepancies are between black, Latino and white likely voters and their IDs in that state alone. When asked if the names on their photo IDs match names on Texas’ voter rolls, just 88% of Latino Texans and 84% of black Texans said their IDs did. Asked the same about matching addresses between IDs and voter rolls, 86% of Latino Texans and 76% of black Texans said their IDs would qualify. This means that as many as 14% of Latinos and 24% of African Americans in Texas have IDs that won’t qualify them to vote.
Contrast this with a recent report about Latino voters in Florida from the conservative Resurgent Republic, which claimed in January that 89% of “Hispanic” voters support the state’s voter ID laws. Florida and Texas are obviously two very different states, with Florida’s Latino population consisting more of Cuban Americans and Texas more so Mexican-American. But I’m curious about how Resurgent Republic’s findings would change if instead of asking about Latino “support” for voter ID laws, they asked about access, as the scholars at Latino Decisions did.
Discriminatory impacts rely more on whether people of color can access something and almost not at all about whether they support it. I know a lot of parents who support “school choice” and vouchers, until they realize they can’t access certain schools, voucher or not. Latino Americans in Florida may support these laws, but if they encounter the same problems in terms of non-matching names and addresses that are found in Texas, they can be found barred from voting just the same.