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  • Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2012) – The League of Women Voters of South Carolina urged a federal district court to reject the state’s restrictive voter ID law, arguing the law erects unnecessary barriers to voting and could disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.

    The League, which is seeking to intervene in South Carolina v. Holder, is represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and pro bono by the law firms Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Derfner, Altman & Wilborn LLC.

    Under the federal Voting Rights Act, changes to South Carolina’s election laws must be “pre-cleared” by the Department of Justice or a D.C federal court. After the Justice Department rejected South Carolina’s voter ID law because of its discriminatory effect on minority voters, South Carolina sued in federal court.

    The Justice Department recently rejected a Texas photo ID law and opposed Florida’s law restricting community-based voter registration, early voting, and election-day address updates. The D.C. Court is currently considering both of those cases. Two state court judges recently found Wisconsin’s photo ID law violated the state constitution.

     “As restrictive voting laws continue to pass nationwide, we are pleased to see the Justice Department and state courts stand up for voters,” said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Discriminatory laws like South Carolina’s have no place in America — they disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities. We are pleased Attorney General Eric Holder stepped in to reject this law, and we urge the federal court to do the same.”

    “Voting is the most sacred part of our democracy,” said Barbara Zia, co-president of the League of Women Voters South Carolina. “By restricting this fundamental right, engaged citizens must now jump through hoops to make their voices heard. This law affects real voters and must be rejected,” added League Co-President Peggy Brown.

    “The State’s own data show that South Carolina’s photo ID requirement could prevent many thousands of eligible voters from casting a ballot, a disproportionate share of whom will be racial minorities,” said Bob Kengle, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in Washington, D.C. “Proposed voting changes that harm minority voting rights violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and this attempt to place an unnecessary hurdle between the voter and the ballot is a case in point why Section 5 remains one of our most important civil rights laws.”

     “In the last decade, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act with bipartisan support, and President George W. Bush signed it into law,” said Armand Derfner of Derfner, Altman & Wilborn. “This critical legislation is more important than ever to protect minority voting rights in this country.”

    The South Carolina law is just one in a wave of restrictive voting measures that passed in 2011. Together, these laws could make it harder for up to 5 million people to vote this November, according to the Brennan Center’s report Voting Law Changes in 2012.

    Read our motion to intervene and supporting memorandum.

    Contact: Barbara Zia, ZiaB1@comcast.net

     

  • LWV-TX, ACLU and ACLU of Texas, Advancement Project, Texas Legislative Black Caucus and Civil Rights Activists Seek to Block Texas’ Discriminatory Photo ID Law

    Lawsuit Will Defend Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and Protect Minorities’ Right to Vote

    WASHINGTON, DC (March 23, 2012) - The League of Women Voters of Texas, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, and the Justice Seekers, a Dallas-based civil rights organization, as well as three African-American registered Texas voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas, Thursday sued to block implementation of Texas’ voter photo ID law.

    The motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was to intervene in Texas v. Holder, in which Texas is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Under Section 5 of the federal law, states with a history of discriminatory voting laws – including Texas – must have changes to their voting laws approved, or pre-cleared, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the federal district court in Washington.

    “The passage of the Voting Rights Act was brought about with blood, sweat and tears of young people who fought for the right of all people, regardless of race, to vote,” said the Rev. Peter Johnson with Justice Seekers. “The state’s attempt to enforce this discriminatory law is not only an offense to everyone who lost their life during the civil rights movement, but a testament to the fact that the struggle for equal rights, especially in Texas, continues.”

    “Our state governments should be in the business of making it easier for citizens to vote, not adding costly restrictions and barriers that will negatively impact all voters,” said Karen Nicholson, President of the League of Women Voters in Texas.

    “The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has already rejected Texas’ photo ID law because it disproportionately harms minority voters,” said Nancy Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, discriminatory laws such as this one can be stopped in their tracks before they are implemented and people’s fundamental right to vote is taken away. The court should block this law and uphold the Voting Rights Act – a crucial instrument for ensuring every eligible voter can participate in our democracy.”

    “This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century and shows how essential the Voting Rights Act is to allow all Americans their right to vote,” said Advancement Project co director Judith Browne Dianis. “If this bill is allowed to stand it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation’s democracy and deny hundreds of thousands of voters their basic rights.”

    Blocking Texas’ discriminatory photo identification law and upholding the Voting Rights Act is crucial for protecting voting rights, the interveners contend. “According to Texas’ own data, registered Latino voters in Texas are anywhere between 46.5% to 120% more likely than non-Latino voters to lack the photo identification to vote under law. This clearly discriminatory law would make it more challenging, if not impossible, for as many as 795,955 registered Latinos to cast their vote in Texas,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director with the ACLU of Texas.

    Texas voters currently must show identification at the polls. If the new law takes effect, new discriminatory photo ID requirements would be mandatory. Many IDs with photos now accepted at the polls would not be under the new law, including student IDs from state universities.

    “The State of Texas has admitted there is no evidence in Texas of voting irregularities that photo ID would address.” said Nicholson of LWV-TX. ”The expense and difficulty of obtaining one of the limited photo IDs allowed under this law would bring unjustified obstacles that many Texans cannot overcome thus denying citizens their fundamental right of citizenship, the right to vote."

    Data provided by the State of Texas shows that hundreds of thousands of Texas voters do not have one of the few photo IDs accepted under this new law and that minority voters would be disproportionately affected by the requirement. Although a photo ID would be available at no charge to voters who lack one of the acceptable photo IDs, obtaining this ID would require documentation, such as a birth certificate, which does have a cost—a birth certificate costs $22.

    To read the motion to intervene, go to: http://www.aclu.org/voting-rights/texas-v-holder-motion-intervene.

    CONTACT:

    Linda Krefting, LWV-TX, 806-793-6136, lkrefting@att.net

     

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