On Monday, the Trump administration, along with the Department of Justice, made a move that is going to ruffle some feathers in the Lone Star State.
The Justice Department, which is now under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has announced that it will begin supporting legislation for strict voter ID laws. For a state like Texas, this means that the past three years the Obama administration spent supporting the opposing forces was all for nothing.
Voter ID laws, like the one that passed in Texas in 2013, help protect our right to vote. There are currently 19 states in the U.S. in which someone can literally walk up to a ballot box and vote without having to show any proof of who they are. There are also 15 states that still have very lenient laws in which the person just has to show a non-photo ID to vote.
Once upon in time in Texas, and still in many other states, voters were able to cast their ballot without showing any type of identification. Citizens simply showed their voter registration card to the ballot attendant, which was then checked against their precinct list. If you did not have your card, but your name was on the precinct list, you were able to sign an affidavit stating that your card was not present at the time of voting.
In addition to signing the affidavit, voters were asked to show any document on the approved list. This list included a driver’s license, state identification card, gun handler’s license, U.S. passport, and a few others. If the voter didn’t have any of those approved items available, the state STILL allowed a provisional vote to be cast, which was then verified by the local voting board a week after the election.
Who would think it’s acceptable to vote without any form of identification? It’s baffling that such easygoing guidelines exist – especially in states like Texas, which take voting rights very seriously.
The current law requires anyone wanting to vote to provide a form of government-issued identification, such as a state ID, military ID, passport or a Texas driver’s license. These are all items that were already on the approved list, but the new law makes them necessary, not optional.
The newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Republican Senator from Alabama, has been a supporter of safer voter ID laws for quite some time. During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice railed against the Texas government by opposing the new law, which was made a high priority by former Governor of Texas, and current Energy Secretary nominee, Rick Perry.
The law, which was drawn up in 2011, has had a long road. In the beginning, Texas’ Republican leadership supported the law and passed it without much issue. In 2013, former Texas Attorney General, now Governor Greg Abbott, was very vocal about passing the law to protect Texans. He also shot down the liberals who spoke out against it.
“Crying ‘voter suppression’ is nothing but a cynical scare tactic designed to mobilize Democratic partisans, none of whom ever will be prevented from voting by these laws,” Abbott said in July 2013, defending the state’s controversial voter ID requirement as a “common-sense fraud prevention device.”
After years of back-and-forth, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered to be one of the country’s most conservative appellate courts, with 10 of its 15 members having been appointed by Republican presidents, ruled that the law violated the Voting Rights Act. Although they did not immediately halt the law, the court did inform the Texas legislature that changes needed to be made.
Since taking office as Governor of Texas in January 2015, Greg Abbott has had his hands full trying to push through this new legislation. Groups like the Campaign Legal Center, which was backed by the Department of Justice under the Obama administration, are having a hard time dealing with the fact that their state’s voters are about to become a lot safer. Danielle Lang, the deputy director of voting rights for the Campaign Legal Center is not too thrilled with Attorney General Sessions’ decision to back the Texas government.
“We have already had a nine-day trial and presented thousands of pages of documents demonstrating that the picking and choosing of what IDs count was entirely discriminatory and would fall more harshly on minority voters. So for the Justice Department to come in and drop those claims just because of a change of administration is outrageous,” Lang said in an interview.
The Department of Justice, as well as the Republican leaders in Texas, disagree. By selecting a list of government-issued IDs that are acceptable at the voting booth, the law will aid in avoiding voter fraud. In a state like Texas, where there is a large population of immigrants and groups that work to give them a voice when they aren’t even residents of the United States, this is vital to the voting process.
Since President Trump took office, his cabinet leaders have worked diligently on undoing many of the Obama administration’s left-leaning decisions. Backing the Texas voter ID law is just one instance.
Governor Abbott took to Twitter to express his gratitude toward the support:
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 27, 2017
Texas’ voter ID law requires voters to use one of seven approved forms of identification to be able to use the ballot box. While Texas is one of nine states to have strict photo ID laws at the voting booth, the current law is known as the most stern out of the entire country. If ‘stern’ keeps our elections safe, then more states should be like Texas.