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Texas Passes Voter-Identification Law Facing Challenge From Foes

Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC. (Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Texas joined South Carolina and Wisconsin in passing a bill to curb vote fraud by demanding photo identification before letting someone cast a ballot.

Republican Governor Rick Perry plans to sign the measure tomorrow, according to an e-mailed statement today. The second most-populous state joins six others including Florida and Indiana that demand a photo ID from voters at the polls.

Opponents plan to challenge the measure in court, said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. The Austin-based nonprofit group, which advocates on behalf of minorities, says the law is unconstitutional and aimed at making it harder for Latinos to vote. Republicans who dominate the Legislature say it will survive judicial review.

“It’s a way of suppressing the Hispanic vote, which is increasingly important in Texas,” Harrington said May 23 in a telephone interview. “It’s nonsense and it’s racist and just cheap politics.”

About 75 percent of Hispanic Texans who voted backed Democrats in November’s election, Richard Murray, a University of Houston politics professor, said in December. Latinos made up 65 percent of the state’s population growth in the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 38 percent of Texas’s 25.1 million residents are Hispanic, compared with 45 percent who are non-Hispanic whites, Census data show.

Confidence Building

Requiring a photo ID will boost Texans’ confidence in elections and increase voter turnout, Representative Patricia Harless, a Spring Republican who sponsored the measure, said during floor debate. The bill permits those lacking an ID to cast a provisional ballot and provide identification later, as do laws passed this year in South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Texas lawmakers passed the bill after Perry said it was a priority for the legislative session that ends May 30. The measure makes vote fraud a second-degree felony punishable by as much as 20 years in prison. Those convicted also could face a fine of as much as $10,000.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, also a Republican, on May 18 signed into law a bill that requires a photo ID to vote.

In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker signed a voter ID bill yesterday after praising its passage last week.

“If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it’s reasonable to require it to vote,” Walker said May 19, echoing comments from Haley at a signing ceremony. “Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud,” Walker said.

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