In a six-page letter today, the Department of Justice told Texas that its new law to make voting harder cannot stand. The bulk of it is that by requiring voters to show photo ID they never had to show before, Texas could disenfranchise between 603,892 to 795,955 people, a disproportionate number of them Hispanic. But there's more. From the letter (pdf):
You have informed us that the DPS-issued "free" election identification certificate, which is proposed to be implemented by Section 20 of S.B. 14, would protect voters who do not already have another acceptable form of identification. The application process for these certificates will mirror the manner in which a person obtains a driver’s license. First-time applicants will be required to furnish various supplemental documents and undergo an application process that includes fingerprinting and traveling to a driver's license office.
An applicant for an election identification certificate will be required to provide two pieces of secondary identification, or one piece of secondary identification and two supporting documents. If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter's birth certificate. There is a statistically significant correlation between the Hispanic population percentage of a county and the percentage of a county's population that lives below the poverty line. The legislature tabled amendments that would have prohibited state agencies from charging for any underlying documents needed to obtain an acceptable form of photographic identification.
In other words, Texas knew voters would have trouble meeting the new requirements -- and Texas did not care.
ADDING: A second judge in two weeks has issued an injunction against Wisconsin's new voter ID law, Act 23. Today's ruling (pdf) from Judge Richarg G. Niess is unequivocal. "The right to vote belongs to all Wisconsin citizens who are qualified electors, not just the fortunate majority for whom Act 23 poses little obstacle at the polls," he writes.
(Chart: Houston Chronicle)