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TX Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Latinos: Justice Dept.

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on March 13, 2012 7:05 AM

The Texas legislature's voter ID law likely discriminates against hundreds of thousands of registered Hispanic voters, the Justice Department declared Monday in a forceful objection.

The objection means the Texas law -- which would require voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot -- cannot take effect until a federal court in Washington, D.C., weighs in, the Associated Press reports.

Texas lawmakers passed a voter ID law in 2011. It's one of eight states to do so, in response to alleged voter fraud. Opponents, however, see a Republican attempt to disenfranchise voters who tend to vote for more liberal candidates and causes, the AP reports.

The Justice Department seems to agree with opponents about the Texas voter ID law's discriminatory effects. Under the Texas law, Hispanic voters would be between 50% and 200% more likely than non-Hispanics to lack a valid photo ID, the Justice Department said.

An estimated 175,000 to 304,000 Hispanic voters in Texas lack driver's licenses or state-issued IDs, according to the AP.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, states with a history of discrimination -- including Texas and South Carolina -- must prove that voting laws do not impose a burden on the voting power of racial or ethnic minorities, The Wall Street Journal reports. Texas failed to meet that burden, the Justice Department said in a letter to Texas' elections director.

Texas' voter ID law is the second such law to get rejected by the Justice Department. South Carolina's voter ID law -- which, like Texas, must also get "pre-clearance" under the Voting Rights Act -- was rejected in December, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A federal court is now set to weigh in on Texas' voter ID law and whether it discriminates against minorities. A hearing could happen as soon as Wednesday, according to the NCSL.

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