By Ian Millhiser on October 21, 2013 at 9:45 am
Texas’ voter ID law, a common voter suppression law that disproportionately targets students, low-income voters and people of color,
will take effect Monday after a court battle that was ultimately
resolved by the five Republican members of the Supreme Court. Both the
Justice Department and lower federal courts agreed that the Voting
Rights Act prevents this Texas law from taking effect due to its impact
on minority voters. Just two hours after Chief Justice John Roberts and
his fellow Republican justices nixed a key part of the Voting Rights
Act, however, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) announced that the voter suppression law would take effect anyway.
Although Abbott announced that the law would immediately go into
effect, the voter suppression law’s practical beginning is Monday,
because that’s when early voting begins for next month’s election.
Voter ID’s proponents typically claim that such laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud at the polls, but such fraud is only slightly more common than dragons and wizards. One study of about 3 million Wisconsin ballots discovered that just seven were invalid
— all of which were caused by felons who were unaware that they were
bared from voting. Yet, while voter ID targets a non-problem, even
conservative estimates suggest that between 2 to 3 percent of registered voters are disenfranchised by these laws.
Moreover, in addition to targeting minorities, students and
low-income voters — all of which are groups that tend to be to the left
of the electorate as a whole — Texas’ voter ID law will also make it
harder for many women to vote. Because the law requires voters to show
an ID with their current legal name in order to cast a ballot, many married women who changed their name upon taking their vows lack the identification necessary to vote.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, just “66 percent of
voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a
document with [their] current legal name.”