Texas’s Photo ID One of the Most Discriminatory in the Country

(Corpus Christi, TX)—Today, a two-week trial begins in United States v. Texas, a federal challenge to Texas’s discriminatory photo ID law, Senate Bill 14.  In this case with important national implications, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and its co-counsel law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP (WilmerHale), represent the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund and Imani Clark. Ms. Clark, an undergraduate student at Prairie View A & M University, a historically Black Texas university, previously voted using her student ID but does not have the photo ID that Texas is now requiring.

“Context matters greatly in this case. Texas adopted its restrictive, discriminatory photo ID law in response to the substantial recent population growth of Black and Latino communities in Texas,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group.  “In the past 10 years, Texas’s population has grown by 4 million people, 90 percent of which are people of color. This demographic shift presented Texas with an opportunity to welcome its rich diversity by expanding its electorate.  Instead, it chose a more insidious and illegal course of action: to erect one of the nation’s strictest photo ID laws in an effort to minimize the growing political power of voters of color. Fortunately, the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution prohibit that.”

“Although Texas has yet to identify a single instance of in-person voter fraud, the State nevertheless insists that a racially discriminatory photo ID law is necessary to prevent it,” said Natasha Korgaonkar, LDF Assistant Counsel. “But here’s what we know: an estimated hundreds of thousands of registered voters, a significant number of whom are voters of color, lack acceptable photo IDs under SB 14. In particular, Texas’s photo ID law imposes significant burdens on young Black student voters, many of whom have relied on student IDs to vote in past elections.” 

LDF previously was successful in blocking Texas from implementing its photo ID law. In 2012, another federal court concluded that Texas’s photo ID law imposes “strict, unforgiving burdens” on the poor, disabled, elderly, and people of color.  However, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which effectively dismantled Section 5’s protections, Texas immediately implemented its photo ID law. 

LDF and WilmerHale seek to block the discriminatory photo ID law, and have petitioned the federal court to “bail-in” the State of Texas to require it to receive preclearance review of all future voting changes because Texas’s implementation of its photo ID law continues its serial attempts to limit, rather than expand, voting opportunities for people of color in Texas.

Read LDF’s complaint and a live-blog of the trial.