• 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

     

  • After many months of assault on voting rights in states around the country, it was nice to get good news this week with two important wins for voters in Wisconsin and Texas. Voters in these two states woke up today knowing that they will all be able to vote and have their votes counted in the upcoming elections. 

  • Washington, DC (March 13, 2012) - “After many months of assault on voting rights in states around the country, the League of Women Voters (LWV) lauds two decisions on Monday that will protect all eligible voters in Wisconsin and Texas and ensure that they are able to vote and have their votes counted in the upcoming elections,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “These decisions are important statements about efforts that could impact eligible voters in many others states.”

    A decision was announced yesterday in a case brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in the Dane County 9th Circuit Court in Wisconsin that granted a permanent injunction against implementation of the nation’s most restrictive voter photo ID law. Judge Richard Niess eloquently stated the potential danger to our democracy in these laws in his decision when he wrote, ‘The defendants’ argument that the fundamental right to vote must yield to legislative fiat turns our constitutional scheme of democratic government squarely on its head.’

    “We are proud of our work to fight back against this undemocratic law and defend voters’ rights. It has been creditably determined that 220,000 Wisconsin citizens could be disenfranchised by this draconian law. We are aware that the judge’s ruling will be appealed but are confident that we will prevail,” said Melanie Ramey, President of the LWV of Wisconsin.

    “Yesterday was also a landmark day because the Department of Justice (DOJ) denied Texas preclearance of their voter photo ID law,” said MacNamara. “The statistics provided by the state of Texas unequivocally establish the discriminatory impact of the law,” added MacNamara.

    “When faced with statistics showing the disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters, the DOJ was left no option except to strike down the law,” said Karen Nicholson, President of the League of Women Voters of Texas. The statistics showed Hispanic registered voters are at least 46.5% (potentially as high as 120%) more likely than non-Hispanic registered voters to lack one of the photo IDs that would have been required to vote under the Texas law. LWV of Texas was instrumental in urging the DOJ to deny preclearance of this law.

    The DOJ also pointed to the cost of underlying documentation needed to get the identification and lack of access to state facilities where voters can get their IDs. “Now is not the time for this country to return to the days of poll taxes limiting access to the polling booth for eligible voters. The DOJ acted in the best interest of the nation in denying preclearance of the law,” said MacNamara.

    “The League of Women Voters has fought for voting rights for all citizens for the past 92 years and will continue the fight as long as this most fundamental right is under attack,” MacNamara stated. “We are hopeful that the wave of voter suppression laws will be struck down in each and every state and come November every eligible citizen will be able to exercise their right to vote and have their vote counted without additional, unnecessary barriers. We stand ready to continue to fight should these decisions be appealed,” concluded MacNamara.

    Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331 or kceballos@lwv.org

  • Historically, the League has worked hard for more representative redistricting, and this year is actively involved in protecting the rights of minority voters and defending the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 on several fronts.  Read this comprehensive article on voting rights in The Nation.

  • Statement from League of Women Voters of the U.S. and League of Women Voters of Texas

    Washington, DC – “The League is disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to block the San Antonio federal court’s maps, and urges the federal court to ensure that any new redistricting plans provide the fair representation that Texans deserve,” said LWVUS president Elisabeth MacNamara. “We are, however, encouraged that the Supreme Court decision avoids the worst possible outcome—implementation of the state legislature’s original, discriminatory redistricting plans, which clearly violate both sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

    The Texas League repeatedly spoke out on behalf of minority voters during the state’s 2011 redistricting process, and strongly urged the Justice Department not to approve the plans originally passed by the Texas legislature.  Today’s decision leaves the fate of the Texas redistricting plans and primary election schedule uncertain, and the San Antonio court has been ordered to develop another set of redistricting plans.  The League has long advocated for a more fair and neutral redistricting system in the state.

    “As the court now goes back to the drawing board, the League’s chief concern remains with Texas voters.  With a primary election that has already been rescheduled once, we fear this development will only lead to more voter confusion, more confusion for candidates and will continue to put strain on hard-working local elections officials,” said Karen Nicholson, President of the League of Women Voters of Texas.

    “Despite the enormous time pressures, we will be urging the court to use diligence and develop a fair plan that reflects the true diversity of our state,” Nicholson concluded.

    Contact:         
    Kelly Ceballos,
    kceballos@lwv.org
    Karen Nicholson,
    kjnicholson@sbcglobal.net  

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