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.