Nation & World

Texas' voter ID law faces federal scrutiny

The contentious issue of voter ID in Texas is now in the hands of federal officials.

On Wednesday, several civil-rights groups filed documents with the Justice Department, asking officials to oppose any early approval or "pre-clearance" of the measure, which fully takes effect in Texas on Jan. 1.

The groups -- which include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, the Advancement Project, the Southwest Workers Union, and the New York-based public policy and advocacy group DEMOS -- said the law discriminates against black and Hispanic voters.

"This law is a part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the civil-rights "action tank" the Advancement Project. "If this bill is allowed to stand, it will undermine the basic fabric of our nation's democracy."

Gov. Rick Perry, who made voter ID an "emergency item" during the legislative session this year, said when he signed the bill that "this is what democracy is all about."

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said Wednesday that the voter ID bill is geared to "ensure the integrity of the ballot box, protecting the most cherished right we enjoy as citizens and ensuring our elections are fair beyond reproach.

"By applying to voting the same standard that is commonly applied in cashing a check or applying for a library card, voter ID can ensure an accurate reflection of the will of the voters," she said. "Without confidence in our elections process, the rights of all voters are cast in doubt."

Texas' voter ID law, touted by the GOP as a way to prevent voter fraud and assailed by Democrats for potentially making it harder for minority and poor voters to cast ballots, is drawing nationwide attention because some fear it could set a national precedent.

Texas' law requires voters to present a valid state or federal photo ID -- such as a driver's license, personal ID card, military ID, passport or concealed-handgun permit -- to vote. Voters now can present documents without photos, such as utility bills or paycheck stubs, if they don't have their voter registration card or a photo ID.

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