In the news

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Aman Batheja

Texas is prepared to go to federal court to defend its voter ID law if the Justice Department blocks it, according to the attorney general's office.

Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill this summer requiring Texans to present a valid state or federal photo identification to vote. Senate Bill 14 is scheduled to be enacted Sunday, in time for the 2012 elections.

Last week, the Justice Department rejected South Carolina's voter ID law, saying it would make it harder for minorities to cast ballots. The news led to predictions that the Texas law will soon face a similar fate.

South Carolina and Texas are among five states that enacted laws this year requiring some form of ID at the polls. The two states and others are subject to federal approval of election law changes, also known as pre-clearance, under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination. Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin also enacted voter ID laws this year but are not subject to federal review.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has vowed to fight the Justice Department's decision in federal court. If the Texas law is also rejected, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is likely to pursue a similar course.

"The Texas attorney general's office is prepared to take all necessary legal action to defend the voter ID law enacted by the Texas Legislature," spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.

In September, the Justice Department asked Texas for more information about more than 600,000 registered voters whose names don't appear in Texas databases of people with valid driver's licenses or state-issued ID cards.

Voter ID advocates say requiring a photo ID is reasonable and necessary in preventing voter fraud.

Bean noted that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's voter ID law in 2008 and that the Justice Department previously allowed Georgia's voter ID law.

"The Department of Justice's decision to deny pre-clearance to South Carolina's Voter ID law is inconsistent with its own previous decisions and flies in the face of U.S. Supreme Court precedent," Bean said.

Democrats and minority groups say the law will prevent many legal voters from casting ballots.

Melissa Cubria of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, an advocacy group that opposes the Texas voter ID law, said she hopes the Justice Department's rejection of the South Carolina law is a sign of things to come for the Texas law.

"We applaud the Department of Justice for taking an aggressive stance against this anti-democratic piece of legislation," Cubria said. "We are encouraged that democracy will prevail here in Texas as well."

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