Texas’ Bad Arguments on Voting Rights

Texas’ Bad Arguments on Voting Rights November 4, 2013

Plaintiffs in a Texas lawsuit are challenging that state’s voter ID law on the grounds that it has a disparate impact on minority voters. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who wants to be the next governor of the state, is not only arguing that this is false, he’s arguing that no one even has a right to bring such a lawsuit.

In their motion, however, Texas does not simply claim that its voter ID law survives a disparate impact suit — it claims that these suits should cease to exist altogether in the voting rights context. As the motion incorrectly claims, the text of the Voting Rights Act “does not prohibit laws that merely have a disparate impact on racial or language minorities.”

This is not just false, it is egregiously false. The Voting Rights Act explicitly allows a plaintiff to prevail if “the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by [racial minorities] in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” Moreover, the law does not simply forbid acts that are intended to prevent minorities from voting, it also forbids any voting regime that “results in a denial or abridgement” of voters of color’s right to vote. Texas’ motion ignores the plain language of the law in an attempt to eliminate the most effective remaining way to prevent race discrimination in voting.

Texas is also fighting a battle that’s already been decided against them. In a 1980 case called Mobile v. Bolden the Supreme Court interpreted the Voting Rights Act in the narrow way Texas suggests in its motion. Two years later, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that effectively overturned Boldenby explicitly authorizing disparate impact suits under the Voting Rights Act. Now, however, Texas asks the courts to pretend like Reagan never signed this law.

The Supreme Court has already removed one of the most important elements of the Voting Rights Act. If Abbott’s legal argument prevails, it will pretty much put the nail in the coffin and render that law completely moot.

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  • roggg

    But the Voting Rights Act is no longer even needed! Welcome to post-racial America.

  • If Abbott’s legal argument prevails, it will pretty much put the nail in the coffin and render that law completely moot.”

    Didn’t you hear? After the “election” of our Muslin Kenyan “president”, racism was officially over.

  • Pingback: Texas’ Bad Arguments on Voting Rights | TheConfirmationFiles()

  • coragyps

    “Two years later, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that effectively overturned Bolden by….”

    That wasn’t the real Reagan – it was one of those imposters with a time machine.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • magistramarla

    Reginald beat me to the comment that I was about to post.

    Is it possible to get Mr. Wright and other elderly voters who will be affected by this law to join the lawsuit?

  • gopiballava

    If you are given a provisional ballot, then you have 6 days to provide proof. Apparently a Texas birth certificate is only $5 if you’re getting it for this purpose (if I remember the article correctly). I was born in Massachusetts. Getting my birth certificate in 2-3 days will cost about $75. Assuming that I have correctly remembered my mother’s maiden name – her parents got divorced and have different names so I’m not positive.

    If my parents hadn’t been married, then I’d need to send the state a copy of my photo ID to get my birth certificate…

  • D. C. Sessions

    If you are given a provisional ballot, then you have 6 days to provide proof.

    Which in general means your vote won’t be counted.

  • colnago80

    What’s even more amusing is that neither the putative Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, or the putative Rethuglican candidate, Greg Abbot had the required identification (apparently, both of them are using different names on their driver’s licenses then on their voter registration) when they showed up for early voting and had to sign an affidavit that they are who they say they are! I don’t know if they have to show up with other identification to have their votes counted.

  • Johnny Vector

    Filing a motion that plainly false doesn’t seem like a good way to win in court. In fact, it’s so wrong that I suspect sabotage. I mean, if I were the lawyer called on to write up that motion, I would have no qualms about making enough asinine claims that any judge who sees it would toss it out. There’s no danger of sanctions (since that essentially never happens), so the worst reprisal would be no longer working for an evil administration.