Voter ID

KUT News

September is Travis County’s Voter Registration Awareness Month – and the county Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar are kicking things off with a new online tool to help volunteers find new voters.

Citizen registrars can now use the county’s website to view lists and maps of addresses with unregistered and suspended voters, broken down by Travis County precincts. While the maps do not verify that eligible, but unregistered, voters reside at those locations, the new resource still helps deputy registrars and other organizations identify areas that may be neglected by the voting process.

clockwise from left: Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News, flickr.com/sarowen, KUT News

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the State of Texas over its voter ID law.

It's the DOJ’s latest attempt to require Texas to get federal approval before making changes to its election laws. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in June. It got rid of Section 4 – the formula that had required some states, including Texas, to get preclearance from the federal government for any changes to voting procedures.

This week was a busy one for the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled on cases involving three major issues: affirmative action, same sex marriage and voting rights. 

All three of these cases have national implications, but they also mean changes for Texans, too. 

flickr.com/60064824@N03

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its second big decision of the week, striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Supporters praised the decision, calling it a step forward in eliminating antiquated aspects of the law. Opponents of the decision say it makes it easier to discriminate against minorities.

Texas Minority Lawmakers: Keep Voting Rights Act

Feb 25, 2013
Bobby Blanchard

Representatives from minority groups are asking Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to stop fighting Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.

This Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the Shelby County v. Holder case, which challenges Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. That's the part of the act that requires federal approval of any changes to voting requirements.

While the Shelby County v. Holder case originated in Alabama, Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fisher said this case resembles Texas cases that might be heard by the Supreme Court. Abbott's appeal of a decision that deeming Texas’ new redistricting maps discriminatory also challenges Section Five.

Matt Largey, KUT News

Election Day is here and hundreds of thousands are expected to head to the polls in Travis County. More than 237,000 Travis County voters cast a ballot during early voting—that's a little over 37 percent of registered voters. Traditional voting patterns show that half of registered voters don't vote until Election Day.

More Texans than ever before are registered to vote in this election—13.64 million people. Presidential elections typically bring more voters to the polls. In 2008, more than 402,000 Travis County residents voted in the presidential election.

Here are six things you should know if you're headed to the polls today:

1. Registered Travis County Voters Can Vote Anywhere in the County:

For this election, Travis County Commissioners approved vote centers. That means registered voters can forget about their precincts and cast a ballot anywhere in the county with a 'vote here' sign. These places include schools and libraries along with locations used for early voting such as grocery stores.

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been making waves in international waters. Abbott and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international watchdog group, have been clashing all week.

clockwise from left: Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News, flickr.com/sarowen, KUT News

A new report says the combined impact of voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, and inaccurate purges of voter registration rolls could prevent over 10 million Latino Americans from registering and voting in elections this year.

The report is authored by the Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization that opposes measures like voter ID. It argues that “voter suppression laws and policies threaten to relegate eligible Latino voters to second-class citizenship and impede their ability to participate fully in American democracy.”

Texas laws and actions are targeted by The Advancement Project, including the state’s voter ID law (which was overturned by a U.S. district court, and is unlikely to be implemented this November). The report also lists Texas as among 14 states that have requested U.S. Department of Homeland Security data “for the purpose of conducting state voter purges based on citizenship.”

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Greg Abbott, the state’s ambitious and litigious attorney general, is on a losing streak.

Federal courts in Washington ruled against him in two crucial voting rights cases last week, first finding that the redistricting maps drawn by the Republican Legislature didn’t protect minority voters as the law requires, and then ruling the state’s tough new photo voter ID law unfairly burdens minority voters.

Neither ruling appears to be a threat to the elections now under way. In the case of redistricting, the state’s maps were replaced this year with interim maps prepared by another set of federal judges. In the case of voter ID, there doesn’t appear to be enough time for the courts to turn around an appeal and order the new standards before November.

Jason Brackins for the Texas Tribune

A United States District Court has denied Texas’ request to implement its controversial Voter ID law.

In the case of the Texas versus U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the court writes that the law – Senate Bill 14, passed in 2011 – will have a “retrogressive effect” on the voting rights of minority citizens.

Here’s the heart of the court’s opinion:

Pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas seeks a declaratory judgment that Senate Bill 14 (SB 14), a newly-enacted law requiring in-person voters to present a photo ID, “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race[,] color,” or “member[ship] [in] a language minority group.” ..  To satisfy section 5’s effect requirement, Texas must demonstrate that SB 14 will not “lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.” …  For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we find that Texas has failed to make this showing—in fact, record evidence demonstrates that, if implemented, SB 14 will likely have a retrogressive effect. Given this, we have no need to consider whether Texas has satisfied section 5’s purpose element. Accordingly, we deny the state’s request for a declaratory judgment.

Cliff Weathers, bit.ly/NncwS3

Closing arguments in the Texas voter ID trial took place in Washington D.C. today.

If implemented, the law would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The state argues that the new law is needed to decrease incidents of voter fraud. U.S. Attorney General has argued that Texas’ ID requirements (and others like it) are tantamount to “poll taxes.”

During the trial, state attorneys cited Travis County as one of the 18 counties that did not properly maintain voter registration records. They further claimed that over 50,000 deceased voters remain on the registry – an open door to voter fraud. 

Ben Philpott for KUT News

Voter ID Trial Continues

Closing arguments are set to begin today in the Texas Voter ID trial in Washington, D.C.

The law would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

A three-judge panel will decide whether the Texas law violates the Voting Rights Act by making it harder for minorities to cast a ballot. The U.S. Department of Justice argues that it does.

But lawyers for the state say the law wouldn’t disenfranchise minority voters. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott hopes the judges will agree and that the law will be in place in time for the November election.

KUT News, U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today to members of the NAACP at a conference in Houston.

He talked about his appreciation of the organization and his concerns about the opportunities for young people in some urban areas.

Holder also talked about the Texas Voter ID bill and why he believes it would be harmful to minority voters.

The controversial Voter ID Law that passed last year in the Texas State Legislature is going before a federal court. The trial begins today to determine if Texas can implement the law, which requires voters to show government-issued photo identification.

The state says the law will prevent voter fraud. The Justice Department worries it will disenfranchise Hispanic voters and claims it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  A disproportionate number of minorities in Texas lack the necessary identification, which would prevent them from voting. Texas will have to persuade a three-judge panel of the law’s legality.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says during the 2008 and 2010 elections there was only one case of voter fraud in over 13 million ballots cast.

Mose Buchele, KUT News; Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News; Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Fourteen Indicted for Alleged Ties to Drug Cartel

A Central Texas grand jury indicted 14 people with alleged ties to the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas.  The cartel’s leader, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and two of his brothers were among those indicted.

Federal investigators say the defendants were involved in a money laundering scheme for the cartel involving the horse racing business.

Authorities arrested seven of the indicted individuals on Tuesday. One person was arrested in Austin.

Abbott and police photos by KUT News; Slupree image courtesy 7-eleven.com

Austin Police Officer No-Billed in Fatal Shooting

An Austin Police officer will not face charges after fatally shooting a man last year.

A Travis County Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Steven Peña.

Police say Peña shot Gilberto Vallejo last May after Vallejo fired a weapon at police. Police were responding to a call in Southeast Austin on a report that Vallejo was trying to shoot his way into an apartment to get to an ex-girlfriend.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/texasgovernor

Texas’ Voter ID Law in Legal Limbo

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that if Texas does not hand over requested documentation by Wednesday, the trial on Texas’ Voter ID Law will most likely be delayed. A delay in the trial means that Texas will not see the law implemented in time for the November election, according to the Texas Tribune.

The trial was scheduled to start July 9, until yesterday’s decision. The DOJ is specifically requesting information on voters and state databases; the state has until Wednesday to comply, says the Tribune.

KUT News previously reported that the DOJ had previously used demographic and census data to argue the  law would have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens.

Holder photo courtesy Justice Department; Abbott photo courtesy Texas Attorney General

The U.S. Department of Justice says a Texas law requiring most people to show ID before they can vote will discriminate against minorities.

In court documents filed today, the department says there is substantial evidence that minorities will be affected the most:

Among other evidence, records produced by the State of Texas indicate that S.B. 14 will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law, based on both a greater likelihood of lacking a required form of photo identification and a lesser ability to obtain a necessary identification.

NAACP Takes Voter ID Laws To U.N. Rights Council

Mar 15, 2012

Like they've done in the past, the NAACP has argued before a United Nations panel that laws passed in some states that require voters to show identification suppress the votes of minorities.

Fox News reports the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People made its case in Geneva yesterday:

Photo courtesy flickr.com/mvjantzen

Earlier today, KUT News reported the Department of Justice has refused to preclear Texas' voter ID law, arguing it would disproportionately impact Latino and Hispanic voters. Here's a roundup of lawmakers' reaction to the decision. 

Gov. Rick Perry

 "Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama Administration's continuing and pervasive federal overreach."

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