To no one’s surprise, the Department of Justice has formally blocked the state of Texas from enforcing its law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ claims the law will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanics, which allows the federal government to spike the measure before it can be put into effect. The argument is that because Hispanics are 46.5 to 120 percent (depending on which statistics you believe) less likely to have a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID, the law is inherently discriminatory. That sounds pretty bad, but once you read what those numbers actually mean, the argument is not quite as clear cut.
Many of the liberal claims that the push for voter ID laws constitutes a GOP “war on voting” seem to be based on the assumption that the lack of photo ID is quite common. Yet even in Texas, the DOJ acknowledges that 93.7 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to 95.7 percent of non-Hispanics. That is a not-inconsiderable number, but it is difficult to pretend this amounts to disenfranchising Hispanics or any other sector of the population. Yet rather than seek to aid the state’s offer of a free ID to anyone who wants one, the Obama administration prefers to use its power under the Civil Rights Act to prevent the passage of what is merely a common-sense measure to prevent voter fraud. In doing so, it appears they are not so much defending the disadvantaged but seeking to play politics on a good government measure. The fact that they are not also claiming discrimination against African-Americans raises other questions about both the numbers and the situation on the ground in Texas.
It bears repeating that in an era in which there are few things that one can legally do in this country without a photo ID, asking citizens to credibly identify themselves before voting is hardly unreasonable. Doing so is no more discriminatory than the refusal of the government to allow someone to board an airplane without similar identification. Americans are obsessed (with good reason) with the problem of identity theft. Despite the liberal assertion that election stealing is unheard of in this country (something they weren’t saying in November 2000 when false charges of stealing votes in Florida and other states were being broadcast by liberals), American political parties have a long and dishonorable tradition of voting the graveyards. It is naïve to assume that such practices would not reappear if safeguards were not put in place.
The charge that those who propose such laws ought to be assumed to be seeking to prevent minorities from voting without any proof of motive or intent is inherently unreasonable. Indeed, it is no more fair to claim that advocates of voter ID laws want to prevent people from voting than it is to assume that those who wish to block those laws from being enforced are really seeking to facilitate voter fraud. However, the zeal with which the administration and the Democrats have taken up this cause does make one wonder.
As for the claims of discrimination in Texas, it is significant that, as even the New York Times noticed, the Department of Justice made no mention of a discriminatory impact of the voter ID law on African-Americans. Can it be there is no such impact or that they only seized on the numbers about the Hispanics because they could be portrayed as having a worse impact on minorities or the poor? Their willingness to only make an issue of Hispanic voters raises the possibility that perhaps there are other issues at play among Hispanics, and perhaps the slightly higher number without proper ID may have something to do with the issue of undocumented aliens.
Meanwhile, other states are not being deterred from making similar efforts. The Pennsylvania legislature is set to vote on a voter ID law this week. However, unlike Texas and South Carolina, whose voter ID law was also halted by the Justice Department, Pennsylvania is not covered by the provisions of the Civil Rights Law, meaning that Obama will not be able to prevent that state from acting to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.