Reaction to the news that the Department of Justice has rejected the state’s request for preclearance of its controversial voter ID law was swift and partisan, as expected.
Democrats are hailing the move as a victory that protects minority voting rights. Republicans are lambasting the federal government for what they see as an attempt to strip Texas’ sovereign right to do as it sees fit to protect voter integrity.
Below are the responses from elected officials and various civic groups. We will continue to update this post as reactions come in.
Gov. Rick Perry: “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama Administration’s continuing and pervasive federal overreach.”
Attorney General Greg Abbott: "The Justice Department's decision to deny preclearance to Texas' Voter ID law is no surprise given the Obama Administration's denial of a similar law in South Carolina. In anticipation of this decision, the Texas Attorney General's office already filed legal action in January seeking judicial preclearance with the court system. The U.S. Supreme Court has already held that Voter ID requirements are constitutional and nondiscriminatory, and several other states — including Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and Wisconsin — are allowed to require photo identification to vote. Texas should not be treated differently and must have the same authority as other states to protect the integrity of our elections."
"Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 100 defendants for election fraud. During the same period, election fraud investigations by the Texas Attorney General's Office have resulted in 50 convictions. Those cases include a woman who submitted her dead mother's ballot, a paid operative who cast two elderly voters' ballots after transporting them to the polling place, a city council member who unlawfully registered ineligible foreign nationals to vote in an election that was decided by a 19-vote margin, a Starr County defendant who voted twice on Election Day, a Harris County man who used his deceased father's voter registration card to vote in an election, an election worker who pled guilty after attempting to vote for another individual with the same last name, and a Hidalgo County man who presented another voter's registration card and illegally cast that voter's ballot on Election Day."
State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, author of SB 14: “I am extremely disappointed that the federal Department of Justice rejected Texas’ voter identification law today. I believe that a photo identification law simply puts into practice the intent of the current law – that the person who shows up at the polls is who he or she claims to be. And, even the U.S. Supreme Court has said that voter identification requirements are constitutional.
"Polls show that people are less likely to vote if they believe their ballot will not be fairly counted. The law I passed last year would have been one step to restore voter confidence by giving election workers a tool to eliminate in-person voter fraud.
“Additionally, a recent Lighthouse Opinion Polling and Research poll showed that 86 percent of Texans - both Republicans and Democrats support a photo-ID requirement. Despite this overwhelming public support for voter identification laws, the Obama justice department failed to approve our law.
“Voting is one of our most fundamental rights. I believe it is my responsibility as an elected official to ensure that legitimate votes cast by Texans are not diluted by those voting fraudulently. This legislation is not a radical concept. I am just asking that every voter verify that "you are who you say you are" before casting his or her vote.”
State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, the House sponsor of the bill: "I am disappointed that the Department of Justice did not approve our photo voter ID law. I am confident Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's legal action will result in full implementation of the photo voter ID law, ensuring that our elections are conducted fairly and without fraud."
Lt. Gov David Dewhurst: “The Obama Justice Department has once again gone out of its way to undermine our states' rights by blocking Texas' Voter ID law.
"The Texas Legislature designed the law to protect the integrity of our elections while encouraging voter participation − carefully following precedents set by Georgia and Indiana that were upheld by the courts.
"The Texas Voter ID law allows for numerous forms of government-issued photo identification − including passports and concealed handgun licenses − offers free identification for those in need and also provides voter education and poll worker training, ensuring every legal citizen can exercise their right to vote.
"I will work closely with Attorney General Abbott to fight this clearly partisan attack by the Obama Administration so Texans can rest assured their votes will not be cancelled out by illegal ballots."
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio: “Today’s decision by the Justice Department to challenge Texas’ voter ID law is another example of the Obama administration’s abuse of executive authority. The people of Texas overwhelmingly supported the state’s law to require individuals to show official identification documentation, like a driver’s license or passport, before being allowed to vote." Smith, the chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, added: “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?
“The Texas voter ID law is based off of the Indiana law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. 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.”
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: “Voter identification laws are constitutional and vital to protecting the integrity of the democratic process. Today’s decision reeks of politics and appears to be an effort by the Department of Justice to carry water for the president’s re-election campaign.”
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso: “Today's decision by the United States Department of Justice to block implementation of the Texas voter ID law until it can be reviewed by federal courts was appropriate. This law, passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, is discriminatory and would disenfranchise Texas voters, especially minorities.
“This harmful law is nothing more than a shameful attempt to silence the growing voice of minorities in our state, particularly Hispanic voters. While similar laws have been passed in other states, Texas, as a minority-majority state, is different, and the Justice Department action was needed to protect the rights of Hispanics and minorities who now account for the majority of the population of our state.
“This voter ID law, in my view, is blatantly unconstitutional. The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature should have never passed it, and Gov. Rick Perry should have never signed it into law. And now, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott is spending our taxpayer money trying to defend a law that hurts minorities and Hispanics in our state.”
The ACLU: Katie O’Connor, staff lawyer with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “Texas’ voter ID law would prevent countless Latinos, African-Americans, elderly citizens, and others from casting their ballot. We’re pleased the Department of Justice has recognized the harms this discriminatory law would have on people’s fundamental right to vote.”
Republican National Lawyers Association: "The announcement by the Department of Justice this morning in opposition to Texas' voter ID law is a prime example of a government agency putting partisan politics above reality and the law. The decision is not based on accurate data or the merits of the argument; instead, it appears that some Democrats and far-left groups believe the more lawful an election the less likely they are to emerge victorious," said RNLA chairman David Norcross. "Neighboring New Mexico, the state with the highest percentage of Hispanic voters, requires voter ID for city elections in Albuquerque without any problems."
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston: “I thank the Justice Department for standing up for voting rights," he said in a prepared statement. "Throughout the preclearance process, Texas consistently failed to produce information showing the law would not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. The Voting Rights Act exists for this exact purpose: protecting the ability of all Americans to access the ballot box."
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston: “An attack on the right to vote is under way across the country through laws designed to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. While couched in terms of voter fraud, these laws will actually have their greatest impact by limiting participation of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and the young. Today the Department of Justice found that the Texas Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act is for EVERYONE!”
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston: “My Democratic colleagues and I fought the passage of this bill during session because it would create unnecessary barriers to the ballot box. After its passage, I wrote a letter to the DOJ requesting that they reject the law. Today's ruling protects the voting rights of many — communities of color, the elderly, and homeless.”
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston: “According to data provided by the Governor Perry-appointed Secretary of State, 800,000 registered voters do not have a valid photo ID number. And according to the DOJ's own analysis, Latinos in Texas are up to 120 percent more likely to not have the required identification, and are nearly twice as likely to not have the available transportation to get a photo ID card. Furthermore, one-third of Texas counties do not even have an operational driver's license office. Those facts cannot be disputed. And they are reason enough to not preclear this measure. The DOJ has my gratitude in allowing hundreds of thousands of Texas to keep their constitutional right to vote."
State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso: “As the Department of Justice's analysis shows, Hispanic registered voters, in particular, are less likely to have photo identification or the ability to acquire photo identification because of obstacles, such as the lack of transportation. This is why I voted against passage of the law. I urge General Abbott not to spend taxpayer dollars on a lengthy and expensive appeals process in defense of a law targeting minority and elderly voters. Let us move forward and focus on the real problems facing our state — underfunded public schools, the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, and a crumbling infrastructure system."
State Rep. Roland Guiterrez, D-San Antonio: “I applaud the Department of Justice's decision today to refuse preclearance of the burdensome and unnecessary Texas voter ID law. As we heard in committee, there was no proof of voter fraud in our state. Moreover, the DOJ decision was correct in recognizing that 81 counties are without driver's license offices and few of the 221 offices have extended hours.”
State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston: “I applaud the Department of Justice's decision to reject Texas' voter ID law. This law does nothing more than disenfranchise women, senior citizens, minorities, and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote. By denying preclearance, the DOJ has helped maintain the fairness of the electoral process and ensured that discriminating obstacles will not prevent eligible citizens from voting."