Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Scathing Dissent Offers 12 Reasons Why Texas' New Voter ID Law Is Racist
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-23 00:10:54 UTC
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*October 20, 2014 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Scathing Dissent Offers 12
Reasons Why Texas' New Voter ID Law Is RacistGinsburg dissent calls out
thinly veiled GOP voter suppression.*

*By Steven Rosenfeld *

This weekend, U.S. Supreme Court reporters pulled an all-nighter waiting
for the ruling on whether Texas’ new voter photo ID law, which may prevent
up to 600,000 otherwise eligible voters from casting ballots this fall,
would be allowed go into effect today.

The reporters were up until 5am on Saturday because Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsberg and the Court’s other women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were
writing a dissent
after the rightwing majority, voted—without writing a single word of
comment—to let it take effect on Monday, when early voting in Texas begins.

It is not the only voting rights litigation that will affect who can vote
in the midterm elections this fall. There is Georgia’s refusal to process
more than 50,000 voter registrations from a minority voter drive. But as
Ginsburg’s blistering 7-page dissent made clear, the fight over Texas’s
voter ID law is in a class by itself. That’s because a lower federal court
held a trial and found that the law’s intent was to discriminate and
disenfranchise, calling it a “poll tax,” and then that record was ignored
by higher federal appeals courts—including the Supreme Court.

“Texas did not begin to demonstrate that the Bill’s discriminatory features
were necessary to prevent fraud or to increase public confidence in the
electoral process,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent. What follows are the 12
major points she wrote:

*1. This was a dispute about facts not fears*. Unlike many other voting
rights lawsuits, civil rights attorneys in this case did not sue without
showing that there were real victims and harm. Ginsburg noted that
important distinction writing that there had been a “full trial and resting
on an extensive record from which the District Court found ballot-access
discrimination by the State.”

*2. But the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court ignored that.* That’s right, judges
in the first tier in the federal appeals court process decided to ignore
the factual record. “The Fifth Circuit’s refusal to home in on the facts
found by the district court is precisely why this Could should vacate the
stay.” (This case came to the Supeme Court because the Fifth Circuit
ignored the district court and ruled that the voter ID law could take

*3. Texas’ previous voter ID requirements are ample.* Ginsburg noted that
the state would not be left without any legal means to ensure eligible
voters were getting ballots at polling places. “Texas need only reinstate
the voter identification procedures it employed for 10 years (from 2003 to
2013) and in five federal elections.”

*4. Texas officials have not informed the public about the new law.* There
has been a lack of public education about the new law, which will lead to
confusion at the polls as it is implemented, Ginsburg noted. “The District
Court found “woefully lacking” and “grossly” underfunded the State’s
efforts to familiarize the public and poll workers regarding the new
identification requirements.”

*5. The state is to blame for confusion at the polls.* Ginsburg said the
state, which claims it needs the stricter photo ID laws to protect the
process’ integrity, will instead be to blame for creating chaos and
confusion. “In short, any voter confusion or lack of public confidence in
Texas’ electoral process is in this case largely attributable to the State

*6. The law concerns only polling place voting*. This is an easily
overlooked point, because the stricter voter ID laws do not effect people
who vote by mail—which often is the way the Republican Party tries to turn
out its base—but only people who show up at polling places. “The bill
requires in-person voting to present one of a limited number of
government-issued photo identification documents,” she wrote, noting that
this list is narrower than what is accepted in other states, citing

*7. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will have a hard time getting the ID.*
The ID law says that Texans can get a state-issued photo ID from police,
but only in certain locations. “Those who lack the approved forms of
identification may obtain an “election identification certificate” from the
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), but more than 400,000 eligible
voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more.”

*8. The trial court found that impact racist and discriminatory.* “On an
extensive factual record developed in the course of a nine-day trial, the
District Court found Senate Bill 14 [the voter ID law] irreconcilable with
Section 2 of the [federal] Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it was enacted
with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited
discriminatory result.”

*9. Texas Republicans have a reason to stop minority voting.* Ginsburg
noted the motive behind the tougher ID law, which is that the state’s
ruling class of mostly white Republicans is less and less representative of
the state’s population as a whole.“In light of the “seismic demographic
shift” in Texas between 2000 and 2010, making Texas a “majority-minority
state,” the District Court observed that the Texas Legislature and Governor
had an evident incentive to “gain partisan advantage by suppressing” the
“votes of African-Americans and Latinos.”

*10. Voter in-person fraud—the law’s rationale—is almost non-existent.* The
Republicans have been able to pass tougher voter ID laws because they cite
a fear that people are showing up and the polls and voting more than once.
Ginsburg noted that very claim was utterly exaggerated, saying, “Between
2002 and 2011, there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted
to conviction in Texas.”

*11. There is no reasonable basis for a tougher voter ID law.* Ginsburg
noted that the law is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, saying,
“Texas did not begin to demonstrate that the Bill’s discriminatory features
were necessary to prevent fraud or to increase public confidence in the
electoral process.”

*12. The law is correctly called a poll tax.* That term is from the Jim
Crow era, where white southerners imposed unreasonable hurdles and costs on
minorities to prevent them from voting. “Under Senate Bill 14, a cost
attends every form of qualified indentification available to the general
public,” Ginsburg wrote. “Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000
registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from
voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply
disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including
America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and
elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting"
(AlterNet Books, 2008).
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