It’s Bigger Than Texas: Voting Rights News Roundup

Voters stand up for themselves in Texas; purge-fest spreads beyond Florida; and ALEC's exodus continues. This and more in our voting rights news roundup.

By Aura Bogado Jul 13, 2012

All eyes have been on a federal Court in DC this week that will decide the future of Texas’ voter ID law. Among other arguments, Texas maintains that its constituents support voter ID, and that getting ID is not an obstacle.

The Department of Justice asserts that Texas has yet to prove that the law will not have a discriminatory affect on marginalized voters. Attorney General Eric Holder told an NAACP gathering in Houston this week that there’s a term for schemes that make it so that eligible voters have to "travel great distances to get [identification cards]" and make it a struggle to get them: "poll taxes," in reference to laws that predate Jim Crow and barred the poor from casting their votes.

But plenty of young voters of color also traveled to DC to be heard–people like Blake Green, Ariana Williams and Christina Sanders, who work with the Texas League of Young Voters. Along with the Texas League of Young Voters, Williams networked through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities group to help build the case against Texas. The League also produced a video that highlights that up to 2.4 million Texans may be effected by the voter ID law. 

As Texas points out, "poverty is not a protected classification under the Constitution," and if "minority voters are disproportionately indigent," they are not being discriminated against on the basis of race. Texas also argues that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to obtain pre-clearance from the DOJ in order to make changes to its districts or voting rules, is unconstitutional.

If the court rules in favor of the DOJ, and finds that Texas must obtain pre-clearance, the court will then also have to attend to the constitutional challenge to Section 5, which may result in a new venue at the Supreme Court.  

Florida To Release Purge List
Despite an election official’s statements to the contrary, Florida will release the names of about 180,000 "suspected non-citizens" on its purge list. The state released a small sample of names in May, which contained individuals who were, in fact, citizens–and helped lead Florida to halt the purge. 

Move Over Florida, Colorado’s Purging, Too
Colorado is following in the Sunshine State’s flawed purge effort, and is demanding the Department of Homeland Security validate the citizenship of some 5,000 voters. Colorado’s Secretary of State Scott Gessler added the names of 11 Republican officials from 11 other states who are expected to request the same of DHS. As the Denver Post points out, two of those states, Ohio and Iowa, join Colorado as battlegrounds states this election season.

Seniors Still Lack IDs Needed to Vote in Tennessee
More than 230,000 Tennessee seniors have non-photo driver’s licenses–and 126,000 of them are registered voters who will not be able to use their existing ID to cast a ballot. And a program aimed at getting these seniors a free photo ID is failing. The Institute for Southern Studies found that only 17 percent of those seniors have taken advantage of the program. According to state officials, 20,923 new IDs have been issued under the program, which means that up to 100,000 seniors might find that their old license won’t be enough to vote on Election Day.

CVS, Best Buy, MillerCoors, Hewlett-Packard, and John Deere have said goodbye to ALEC, the lobby group that has pushed for voter ID laws in various states. members have now pressured 25 corporations to leave ALEC.