Texas voter ID law blocked by US Justice Department

The US Justice Department has blocked a new Texas law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling stations, Fox News reported. This means Texas voters will not need to present photo ID to vote in the May 29 primary election.

In 2011, Texas was one of five states — the others were Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee — that passed laws to join Indiana and Georgia in requiring photo ID at voting stations. The Obama administration blocked South Carolina’s law in December, CNN reported.

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According to CNN:

The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 gives the federal government the power to oversee any changes in voting procedures in states and jurisdictions with a past history of voter discrimination.

In a six-page letter delivered to Texas' director of elections today, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said Texas officials had failed to show that the law would not disenfranchise minority voters.

"Under the data provided in January, Hispanics make up only 21.8 percent of all registered voters, but fully 38.2 percent of the registered voters who lack these forms of identification,” he wrote, according to CNN. “Thus, we conclude that the total number of registered voters who lack a driver's license or personal identification card issued by (the state Department of Public Safety) could range from 603,892 to 795,955. Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver's license or a personal identification card … and that disparity is statistically significant.”

Perez also said there was not enough evidence of voter fraud to justify the new law, Fox News reported. Texas officials "did not include evidence of significant in-person voter impersonation not already addressed by the state's existing laws,” he wrote.

Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade said in a statement that the Justice Department had based its decision on faulty statistical analysis, Fox News reported. "The data they demanded came from matching two separate data sets never designed to be matched, and their agency was warned that matches from these data sets would be misleading," she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, was also disappointed in the ruling. “If citizens are required to show ID in order to open a bank account, cash a check, drive a car or board a plane, how much more important is it to show ID in order to exercise one of our most valuable democratic rights?” he said in a statement, according to Fox News. “This is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas. It's time for the Obama administration to learn not to mess with Texas."

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