A main difference in the two states’ laws is that a three-judge federal panel struck down Texas’ law while Alabama’s law, which takes affect in 2014, stands. Nevertheless, Texas’ unanimous ruling handed down last Thursday sent another strong message to those who say these laws are necessary to prevent widespread voter fraud.
That message: The notion that the voting rights of minorities, the poor and college students — demographics often aligned with Democratic candidates — won’t be damaged is extremely flawed.
“Simply put, many Hispanics and African-Americans who voted in the last election will, because of the burdens imposed by (the voter-ID law), likely will be unable to vote in the next election,” the three-judge panel wrote in its opinion. “This is retrogression.”
Chalk this up as the latest chapter in the battle to keep voters unkind to one party away from the polls. Statistics prove that voter impersonation on Election Day is extremely rare, whether you’re in Texas or Alabama. The idea that rampant fraud is forcing this Republican-led push to pass strict voter-ID laws is a fallacy. It’s simply not the case.
Oh, sure, Republican leaders in Montgomery are carping about last week’s election in the Perry County town of Uniontown. Attorney General Luther Strange says he’s looking into reports that there were more registered voters (2,587) than the town’s population (1,775).
This fiery response from House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, represents the tone echoed by many GOPers in Alabama’s Statehouse. “It is obvious that the voter rolls there are bloated with the names of dead, relocated or even fictitious residents, a fact that does not inspire confidence in honest and fair elections,” Hubbard said in a statement. “Only a strong and strictly enforced photo voter ID requirement can return faith to what is obviously a flawed, broken and likely corrupt elections system.”
Return faith? We didn’t know faith in Alabama’s local voting systems had been so severely damaged. From what we could tell, Tuesday’s elections in Calhoun County weren’t compromised by widespread voter fraud.
Strange is right to check out the details of Uniontown’s election. Problems may exist. But a single case of potential voting irregularities in a town of less than 2,000 people is not justification for a statewide law that will make it more difficult for law-abiding Alabamians to vote. And just how will a picture-ID requirement somehow clean up a messy voter roll littered with names of the deceased?
What happens next in Texas is unclear. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court may follow. What is clear, however, is that state after state that own these overly strict voter-ID laws are liable to have those laws struck down by courts that see the truth: these laws restrict ballot access to American voters, and that can’t be allowed.