Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abbott loses again.

Or as Gabriel Escobar at the Dallas News clarifies... the Lege gave him an "impossible burden" of a legal case.

The latest humiliation was inflicted today, when a three-judge panel decisively ruled that the Voter ID law in Texas violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Like the decision on redistricting earlier in the week, there was nothing ambiguous about this latest ruling. Texas had the burden of proving that its Voter ID -- the most restrictive in the nation -- did not adversely impact minorities.

It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to be trounced. The judges concluded that all the evidence presented by Texas was some combination of  “invalid, irrelevant and unreliable.”

"So you're sayin' there's a chance..."

... the blame lies squarely with the GOP majority in the legislature because they came up with a law that stood no chance under the Voting Rights Act.

Toward the end of the opinion, one of the attorneys for Texas is quoted as saying that the state faced an “impossible burden.” No doubt this was a reference to Section 5 of the act, which we all know is the real target of Abbott and others in the GOP.

Justice David Tatel, writing for the three-judge panel, uses this plaintive cry from our attorney to slam our legislature. “Texas lawyers,” Tatel observes, “have only their client to blame.”

Gosh, I wish I had written this.

Indeed, several states have Voter ID laws that have survived legal challenges. The one passed and approved in Georgia is especially relevant because, like Texas, it needed preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

Here’s the difference. Georgia’s law by design makes Voter ID accessible to those who lack a driver’s license and other acceptable means of identification. First, the ID is free. Second, a broad range of personal identification can get you one, including a student card and even a paycheck.

Texas, by comparison, is designed to exclude voters, particularly those who are poor.  If you don’t have a valid ID, it will cost you at least $22 to get one. The list of acceptable documents to obtain an official ID is the most stringent around.  Most significantly, state-issued Voter ID’s are only available at DPS offices. As the judges heard during the trial -- and helpfully cited in the opinion -- 81 counties in Texas have no DPS office and an additional 34 are open two days a week or less.

(Small government  at work, or hardly working).

The Texas legislature -- did I say it was dominated by the GOP? -- tabled or defeated amendments that would have greatly expanded access. A sign of how important this weighed on the case? All the measures are listed in the opinion. “Put another way,” Tatel concludes, “if counsel faced an ‘impossible burden,’ it was because of the law Texas enacted -- nothing more, nothing less.”

This court ruling is so devastating that the attorneys who lost the case would likely be fired immediately if they were privately employed. But they will of course toil on... on the public dole.

I am not certain that the lawyers who serve in -- as well as those who only give advice to -- the Republican party in the statehouse will make themselves heard in next year's legislative session. That's provided they have the fortitude to even suggest to the most intransigent among conservative lawmakers what it is about a Photo ID law that would pass legal muster.

I expect nothing more than continuing efforts to suppress and disenfranchise poor and minority voters. I believe the one thing Republicans understand is that they cannot win elections -- even in Texas -- without doing so.

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