Joint Letter: Texas Voter ID Law Disenfranchises Student Voters
Last week, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. and the League of Young Voters Education Fund issued a joint letter urging the Attorney General to reject Texas’s proposed photo identification law. The organizations argue that Texas has not met its burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of showing either that this proposed voting change will not be harmful to minority voters, or that its adoption was free of discriminatory purpose.
“As our letter explains, Texas’s proposed photo ID measure, which does not permit the use of a government-issued student identification card as an acceptable form of identification at the polls, would disfranchise students who only possess student identification,” said Christina Sanders, State Director for the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund.
This is especially true for many African-American students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black university located in Waller County, who have been the target of multiple efforts to deny their votes over the years. The League of Young Voters Education Fund collected statements from dozens of students at Prairie View confirming that the proposed photo ID law will disfranchise them.
It is noteworthy that these new burdens have been imposed against the backdrop of an unfortunate history of discouraging student voting at Prairie View A&M. For more than three decades, Waller County has repeatedly sought to prevent students at Prairie View A&M from participating in the electoral process. Litigation from the late 1970s—including a decision from the Supreme Court —barred Waller County’s efforts to block Prairie View A&M students from voting in local elections. Nonetheless, in the 1990s and 2000s, local officials indicted students, or threatened them with prosecution, for voting in such elections.
“Students have a right to vote where they attend school," Sanders said. "We are urging the Department of Justice to stand in the gap to protect their voting rights. We cannot afford to ignore this real threat to their voting rights—a threat to their access to the ballot is a threat to everyone's access to the ballot."
Although Texas’s purported rationale for the photo ID Law is to prevent fraud, there is absolutely no record of voter fraud with respect to in-person voting in Texas.
“It’s a lie. It’s not true. It does not exist,” said Royal Masset, former Political Director of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Department of Justice has until Sept. 23, 2011 to object to the law if it decides that it is discriminatory and disenfranchises voters.
“In balancing the non-existent harm of in-person voter fraud against the measurable and identifiable record of actual disfranchisement of qualified voters, the coalition believes that the Department should err on the side of permitting qualified voters access to the polls,” Sanders said.
The letter (in PDF format) is in the link below.