Texas GOP: Repeal The Voting Rights Act

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Rick Perry photo

Texas Governor Rick Perry supports the repeal

The Texas Republican Party has released its official platform for 2012, and the repeal of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of its central planks.

“We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965 codified and updated in 1973 be repealed and not reauthorized,” the platform reads.

Under a provision of the Voting Rights Act, certain jurisdictions must obtain permission from the federal government — called “preclearance” — before they change their voting rules. The rule was put in place in jurisdictions with a history of voter disenfranchisement.

Some elected officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, have since argued that the rules put an unfair burden on certain places and not others. Texas is one of nine states that must obtain preclearance before changing its electoral guidelines.

The declaration by the state’s GOP comes as Texas continues protracted fights over voting rights on several legal fronts. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blocked the state’s recent voter I.D. law, citing discrimination against minority voters. And a federal judge earlier this month heard motions in a lawsuit filed by Project Vote, a voting rights group that tries to expand voting in low-income communities, that claimed the state’s laws made it illegally difficult to register new voters.

Critics say voter I.D. laws like the one in Texas make casting a ballot particularly cumbersome for the young, seniors and the poor, who are less likely to have official state identification, as such laws often require. Others have noted the I.D. laws will reduce turnout among groups that tend to vote for Democrats, like young people, the poor, African Americans and Hispanics.

Numerous independent studies — including one undertaken by Greg Abbott, Texas’s Republican attorney general, who claimed there was an “epidemic” of electoral fraud — have found voter identification fraud to be exceedingly rare. Abbott’s two-year investigation yielded 26 cases of alleged fraud, but two-thirds of those turned out to be technical infractions in which the voters were eligible to vote and their votes were legally cast. In all the fraud cases but one, the voters at question were Black or Hispanic. All of them were Democrats.

At a discussion with a group of journalists last week, Nicole Austen-Hillery of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice laid out why the pitched fight over voter I.D. laws and similar measures has become so politically important in this election cycle: “Of the states that have made these changes, those states contain 78 percent of all the electoral votes that are required to elect the next president of the United States.”