Voter-ID laws are ‘poll taxes,’ says Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the NAACP on Tuesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the NAACP on Tuesday.
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

It’s not just Rick Perry rejecting health care reform; Texas is also in the news this week for its state legislature fighting for for harsher voter-ID laws.

After being shot down for failing its pre-clearance test required of states with a history of racial discrimination, the Lone Star State’s latest voter-ID law is currently facing a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. that will decide whether or not to deliver the final KO to a law that could disenfranchise as many as 1.4 million people.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder fanned the flames against the legislation when speaking before the NAACP on Tuesday, likening them directly to a relic of Jim Crow:

Under the law passed in Texas, Holder said that “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them — and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”

“We call those poll taxes,” Holder added spontaneously, drawing applause as he moved away from the original text of his speech with a reference to a fee used in some Southern states after slavery’s abolition to disenfranchise black people.

The Texas legislature passed the bill in 2011 in a move that upped the ante on voting requirements, mandating residents to show photo identification in return for a ballot vote. As Holder reminded the NAACP, registered gun owners could legally present their gun licenses to vote, while student IDs didn’t make the cut.

“There was a deliberate effort to pass this,” State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, told the three-judge federal panel on Tuesday, “and pass this in record time.”

More than 60 amendments, seven points of order, and 11 hours of debate may have proved hasty in the bill’s conception after the Department of Justice denied pre-clearance approval for discriminating against voters. The Department of Justice’s response argued that a registered Hispanic voter was potentially 120 percent more likely to be affected by the law than a non-Hispanic voter.

“Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote to Texas’ director of elections.

Attorney General Greg Abbott sued the court for the ruling.

“There’s far more evidence of voter fraud than there is of voter suppression,” Abbott told the Houston Chronicle this week. “I know for a fact that voter fraud is real, that it must be stopped, and that voter-ID is one way to prevent cheating at the ballot box and ensure integrity in the electoral system.”

(For all of that “evidence,” take a look at a write-up we did last week, which includes the Mother Jones stat sheet that proves that allegations of UFO sightings are more frequent than actual instances of voter fraud.)

Ed. note: As for the guy who addressed the NAACP today, we’ll have more of that later today on the blog.



Voter-ID laws are 'poll taxes,' says Holder