Texas voters won an important victory. More than 600,000 voters who might have been prevented from voting in the November presidential election will be able to go to the polls thanks to changes in the state’s voter identification law ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Texas, a Republican-majority state, faces a major demographic transformation that in the long term threatens to take control away from conservatives. With this in mind and the excuse of fighting election fraud, a law was approved in 2011 that required one of seven specific documents to be able to vote.
It gave preference to potential Republican voters over Democratic voters. For example, military IDs and hunting licenses were accepted, but not public employee IDs and student IDs.
Texas’ argument, that the law was needed to combat serious election fraud committed by individuals not authorized to vote, was never backed by the facts. A study of files in Texas and other states, conducted by News21, an Arizona State University journalism project, revealed that between 2000-2011, only 104 cases of fraud were reported.
In contrast, in just two years (2013-2014), the Texas Legislature’s Ethics Committee received 530 complaints related to campaign financing and lobbying, linked to elected officials and people who were trying to influence others with money.
That is what makes the reaction of Texas Governor Greg Abbott absurd. He claimed that restrictive election laws were needed to prevent political corruption, while turning a blind eye to where corruption of the political process is actually happening.
Texas’ case is not unique. More than 30 Republican-majority states have enacted restrictive voter identification policies. Nine of them, including Texas and Wisconsin, had the worst ones until this week. A few days ago, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin must allow residents without photo identification to vote.
The decision about Texas requires making changes in the law to prevent excluding voters. It also calls for a review to determine whether the law’s intent was to exclude Latinos and African-Americans, which could have very serious consequences for the state.
In the meanwhile, we celebrate the news as a win for participative democracy.