-by Ryan J. Reilly
September 13, 2011- A photo voter ID law signed by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is unnecessary, unfair, restrictive and intentionally discriminates against African-American and Latino voters, a coalition of civil rights groups will argue in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday.
Groups in the coalition want DOJ's Civil Rights Division to oppose preclearance of Texas's photo voter identification law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Advancement Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, Southwest Workers Union, a statewide Hispanic organization and Demos say the state failed to prove that the law was enacted for a nondiscriminatory purpose and that it will have no discriminatory effect on minorities.
"This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century," Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis said in a statement. "If this bill is allowed to stand it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation's democracy."
Perry declared the voter ID measure a "legislative emergency," allowing the Texas legislature to speed up the passage of the bill. The groups said that a 2008 study "documented that out of the millions of Texas voters between 2006 and 2008, none were accused of in-person impersonation."
Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, spoke about the Voting Section's review of photo voter ID laws at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who held a hearing last week on voter ID, asked whether there had been an increased incidence of voter fraud over the past several years that might give rise to such legislation.