AUSTIN ? What happens next to Texas’ enacted but as-yet-unenforceable voter identification law is up to a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, following a week of court action, July 9 to 13.
If allowed to stand as written, the law, with certain exceptions, would require each voter to present official photo identification along with a valid voter registration card at the poll in order to cast a ballot.
After final arguments were completed on July 13, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated his opinion that evidence presented at trial by the State of Texas shows that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s list of voters who lack government-issued photo identification is “fatally flawed.” That's because the U.S. Department of Justice’s list “includes dead voters, failed to exclude non-Texas residents, and did not attempt to match voters with photo ID databases maintained by the federal government, such as the State Department’s passport database or the Department of Defense’s military identification database.”
While the state did present evidence that voter rolls may include the names of deceased or otherwise ineligible voters, it did not present evidence that voter impersonation at the polls is commonplace or has changed the outcome of an election.
Among those testifying against the voter ID law at the request of the Department of Justice were state Reps. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
The D.C. Circuit Court is expected to rule in late August or early September.
Background on voter law
Near the end of the 2011 regular session of the Texas Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed the voter ID law, Senate Bill 14, amending the state election law with language “relating to requirements to vote, including presenting proof of identification; providing criminal penalties.”
When Perry signed the bill, he said, “… we take a major step forward in securing the integrity of the ballot box and protecting the most cherished right we enjoy as citizens.” But Texas House and Senate Democrats in committee and floor debates of SB 14 claimed the legislation would result in voter suppression and would be harming to the state’s black and Hispanic populations.
Throughout the legislative process state House and Senate debates were contentious and votes were party-line. The enactment of the bill kindled protracted civil rights litigation. The Department of Justice declined to grant the necessary pre-clearance under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act for the law to take effect and the State of Texas filed suit.
Perry reacts to ruling
On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of part of the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 on the basis that it is a fair exercise of federal authority to impose a “tax” on citizens who fail to obtain health care insurance.
On July 11, the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives, for the 31st time since the law was passed, voted to repeal it. Five Democratic members also voted to repeal the law. No vote to repeal was called in the U.S. Senate.
On July 9, Gov. Perry informed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of his intention to opt Texas out of full participation in President Obama’s marquee national health care plan.
In a statement issued by the Office of the Governor, Perry said, “If anyone was in doubt, we in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under ‘Obamacare.’ I will not be party to socializing healthcare and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government.”
However, it is the job of the Texas Legislature to decide whether to opt in or out of full acceptance of the federal Medicaid package and participate in health insurance exchanges.
The Legislature convenes in January with more than six million Texans who do not have health insurance.
Revenue collections increase
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced July 13 that state sales tax revenue in June was $1.98 billion, up 15.2 percent compared to June 2011.
“Sales tax revenue has increased for 27 consecutive months in Texas,” Combs said. “Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections. Revenue from consumer spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well.”
Ed Sterling covers state capital news for the Texas Press Association and its members, including the Glen Rose Reporter.