The U.S. Justice Department has barred a new Texas state law requiring voters to present identification before voting, arguing it “disproportionally harms” Hispanics.
“Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card,” wrote Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in a letter to Keith Ingram, director of elections for the Texas Secretary of State.
“I cannot conclude that the state [of Texas] has sustained its burden” of showing that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect, Perez wrote.
The battle over voter identification cards is quickly becoming a contentious issue in the buildup to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. Proponents argue they need the documents to stop voter fraud, while opponents say the laws will discriminate or deter minorities, who helped President Obama win in 2008, come out and vote.
Attorney General Eric Holder has made voting laws a top priority of his Justice Department.
“The reality is that — in jurisdictions across the country — both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common and have not yet been relegated to the pages of history,” the Washington Post quoted Holder as saying in one recent speech.
So far, 34 states have introduced voter ID legislation, reports the Associated Press. The Justice Department has barred South Carolina for enacting its law, the first time it has done so in more than 20 years.
South Carolina is suing the Justice Department so it can use voter identification, and Texas is likely to follow suit.