The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division Voting Section Chief T. Christian Herren Jr. informed the Texas Secretary of State’s office that it has yet to provide the information the USDOJ requested at the end of September.
In a letter issued Wednesday, Herren informed the Texas Director of Elections, Ann McGeehan, that without the requested information the USDOJ is unable to determine if the voter photo ID law 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 USDOJ must make that determination before the law may be implemented.
The letter from Herren restarts the 60 day clock on when the USDOJ has to make a decision about whether the law, which means the Jan 1, 2012 scheduled date of implementation is now jeopardy. If Texas does not return the requested information by Jan. 16, 2012, the USDOJ could reject Texas application for preclearance of SB14. Texas, then, would likely appeal the rejection through the courts.
The Secretary of State filed its original request for preclearance in July, but the USDOJ determined in late September that it needed more information. Specifically, the USDOJ requested the racial breakdown and counties of residence of the estimated 605,500 registered voters who do not have a state-issued license or ID, and how many of them have Spanish surnames. It requested the same information for registered voters who do have valid IDs.
On October 5 the Texas Secretary of State (TXSOS) office sent a letter back to the USDOJ saying the state does not collect race information from voters, and so, can not answer all of the USDOJ's specific questions concerning the affect Texas' implementation of the voting photo identification law might have on minority groups.
The TXSOS instead returned to the USDOJ a list of all the Hispanic surnames in Texas, as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau and offered to check that list against the list of registered voters to determine how many voters have Hispanic names.
The TXSOS also returned to the USDOJ a spreadsheet showing how many registered voters reside in each county, as of Sept. 16, showing the number of voters who did not provide an ID when they registered to vote, how many voters did not provide an ID, but whose records matched an ID record in the state's Dept. of Safety's (DPS) database, which means the DPS had issued an ID to those individuals, and people who did not provide an ID on their voter registration application and could not be matched with a DPS record.
The information sent to the USDOJ shows that as many as a quarter of voters in some small Texas counties might not have any of the required government issued photo ID documents, and therefore, may not be able to cast ballots in elections after January 1, 2012. The data reveals that in 27 of Texas' 254 counties, at least 10 percent of the registered voters might be unable to cast ballots. In Presidio County in Southwest Texas as many as 25.9 of registered voters might not have the required photo ID, which will block as many as 1,313 out of the 5,066 registered voters from casting ballots in any election.
The Texas Democratic Party followed up with its own letter and spreadsheet to the USDOJ showing that in at least 46 Texas counties, over half the voters who do not have one of the required photo ID's are Hispanic. The Texas Democratic Party and various organizations staunchly opposed SB14 on the grounds it will disenfranchise elderly and minority voters.
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