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2012-03-15

DOJ fails to approve photo ID for Texas voters, pols - 'Don't mess with Texas Voter ID Law'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The United States Department of Justice on Monday, March 12, refused to approve Senate Bill 14, passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law in 2011 for the purpose of voter fraud prevention.

SB 14 requires voters in Texas to provide certain government issued photo identification when voting to help ensure positive identification at the polls.

"The Department of Justice's decision is extremely disappointing, especially since the data they demanded came from matching two separate data sets never designed to be matched. Additionally, their agency was warned that matches from these data sets would be misleading," said Secretary of State Hope Andrade. "My office will continue working with the Texas Attorney General's Office in seeking to implement the will of the citizens of Texas, as enacted by our duly elected representatives in the Texas Legislature."

As a result of the DOJ's refusal to allow implementation of SB 14, current law pertaining to approved documentation required for voting, meaning a Texas Voter Registration Card, will apply in the May 12, 2012 Uniform Election and the May 29, 2012 Primary Elections.

Approved documentation in addition to, or in lieu of a voter registration card includes at least one of the following:

•A driver's license or personal identification card issued to the bearer by the Texas Department of Public Safety. A similar document issued by an agency of another state may also be used - even if the license or card has expired;

•A form of identification that contains the bearer's photograph and establishes his identity;

•A birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes the person's identity;

• A United States citizenship papers;

• A United States passport;

• Official mail addressed to the bearer by a governmental entity; or

• A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the bearer's name and address.

For additional voter information, visit www.VoteTexas.gov.

As expected, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Senator John Cornyn criticized the Obama administration's decision to challenge Texas' voter ID law.

"The Monday, March 12, decision by the Justice Department to challenge Texas' voter ID law is another example of the Obama administration's abuse of executive authority," Smith said. "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."

According to Smith, the foundation of this country's democracy rests on secure and fair elections; however, voter fraud undermines the electoral process and can sway the ultimate outcome of elections.

"Illegal votes negate the votes of legal voters. Voter ID laws help ensure the integrity of our elections and protect the rights of lawful voters," he continued. "If citizens are required to show ID 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 was based on the Indiana law, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

"The Obama administration's assault on the law is an abuse of executive authority and an affront to the citizens of Texas," Smith said. "It's time for the Obama administration to learn not to mess with Texas."

For his part, Cornyn called Obama's decision to oppose Texas' voter identification law "purely political." He continued, "This week's decision reeks of politics and appears to be an effort by the Department of Justice to carry water for the president's reelection campaign. Voter identification laws are constitutional and vital to protecting the integrity of the democratic process."

Commenting on the DOJ denial of preclearance for Texas' Voter ID law, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said, "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 United States 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."

According to Abbott, since 2002, the DOJ 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.

The cases included 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.