Texas' Decades-Long Fight Against Voting Rights

Ben Sklar/Getty Images
Ben Sklar/Getty Images

In a blog entry at ColorLlines, Brentin Mock warns that a legal challenge to a voter-ID law in Texas could signal the demise of the Voting Rights Act, which made it possible for people of color to vote in much of the country.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder declared in his address to the NAACP national convention in Houston what many voting rights advocates had been saying for months: That the photo voter ID law passed in Texas is a poll tax. Determining whether voter ID laws are as unconstitutional as poll taxes won't be up to him, though. That honor goes to the U.S. Supreme Court justices who lately have been signaling they may be ready to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

What this means is that a legal challenge to a voter ID law in Texas could be the trigger for the demise of the constitutional act that made it possible for people of color to vote in much of the country. Rightwing pundits have all but conceded this week's US District Court hearing over Texas's voter ID law to the Department of Justice. There's agreement on the left and the right that Texas didn't do a good enough job proving that the law has no discriminatory purpose nor effect. Experts have testified that almost 1.4 million Texans could be disenfranchised due to lacking ID.

The state's argument wasn't helped by Texas state Sen. Tommy Williams, an author of the voter ID law, who said, "I think people who live in west Texas are accustomed to driving long distances for routine tasks," when confronted with the fact that the closest DMV for some low-income Texans could be dozens of miles away.

None of this may matter, though. If the district court judges rule that Texas's law should not be cleared by DOJ, then that could set it up for a fast-track hearing before the Supreme Court


Read Brentin Mock's entire piece at ColorLines.

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