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Texas Republicans call for repealing the Voting Rights Act

Badly weakening the law wasn't enough for them.
A voter arrives at a polling site, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in San Antonio.
A voter arrives at a polling site, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in San Antonio.

When the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act last year, it allowed Texas to implement what is perhaps the nation’s strictest photo ID law. But according to the state's Republicans, the federal government still has too much influence on how it runs elections.

The Texas GOP platform, released Thursday, calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the most successful civil-rights law in the nation’s history. It also supports scrapping the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which has helped millions register to vote. And it advocates making voters re-register every four years, among other restrictive policies.

In sum, the party wants to get the federal government out of the business of overseeing state elections—returning voting law to where it was before the civil rights movement.

"We urge that the Voter [sic] Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized," the platform says. 

These aren’t new positions—the platform’s section on voting issues is largely unchanged from 2012. But circumstances have changed. Last year, the Supreme Court badly weakened the VRA by invalidating the provision that required certain states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, to get federal approval before making changes to their voting systems. That allowed Texas to put into effect its strict voter ID law, which had been blocked by a court under the VRA. 

The Justice Department is continuing to challenge Texas's voter ID law under a different provision of the VRA that still exists, and which prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

Without the VRA, the only bar on racial discrimination in voting would be the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. These weren’t enough to stop a century of Jim Crow, which used tactics like literacy tests to get around the prohibition on explicitly denying the right to vote on account of race. It was only thanks to the VRA, which took a broader view of what constitutes racial discrimination in voting, that the right to vote for all Americans was meaningfully assured.

Voting rights advocates are currently pushing Congress—with little success—to advance a bill that would strengthen the VRA in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Texas Republicans’ stance is a reminder that many conservatives want to go in the opposite direction.

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott—who has fought for the ID law in court and who supported the legal effort to weaken the VRA—did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he supports repealing the VRA entirely. 

The GOP platform also calls for repeal of the 2002 Help America Vote Act—which has made it easier for millions of Americans to cast a ballot—calling the law “unconstitutional.” And it explicitly says states have the right to disenfranchise ex-felons.

Below is the full voting section of the platform, which appears not to have been updated since 2012:

Voter Registration- We support restoring integrity to the voter registration rolls and reducing voter fraud. We support repeal of all motor voter laws; re-registering voters every four years; requiring photo ID of all registrants; proof of residency and citizenship, along with voter registration application; retention of the 30-day registration deadline; and requiring that a list of certified deaths be provided to the Secretary of State in order that the names of deceased voters be removed from the list of registered voters. Selection of Primary Candidates- The SREC should study the Utah model for selecting primary candidates.Electoral College- We strongly support the Electoral College.Voting Rights- We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age who are not felons. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, or creed and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts.Voter Rights Act- We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.Felon Voting- We affirm the constitutional authority of state legislatures to regulate voting, including disenfranchisement of convicted felons.Protecting Active Military Personnel’s Right to Vote- We urge the Texas Secretary of State and the United States Attorney General to ensure that voting rights of our armed forces will neither be denied nor obstructed, and all valid absentee votes shall be counted.Fair Election Procedures- We support modifications and strengthening of election laws to ensure ballot integrity and fair elections. We strongly urge the Texas Attorney General to litigate the previously passed Voter ID legislation. We support increased scrutiny and security in balloting by mail, prohibition of internet voting and any electronic voting lacking a verifiable paper trail, prohibition of mobile voting, prosecution for election fraud with jail sentences, repeal of the unconstitutional “Help America Vote Act”, and assurance that each polling place has a distinctly marked, and if possible, separate location for Republican and Democrat primary voting.