Fifty years ago the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, becoming one of the most fundamental pieces of legislation in banning discriminatory voting. Yet despite this vital piece of legislation, voting rights are routinely threatened by the Republican Party — who consistently advocates for more stringent voter identification laws that negatively impact Black and Latino voters.
Voting rights groups have been fighting hard against these voter ID laws which actively discriminate against minority voters. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices struck down a key provision of the act that forces states to receive federal clearance before making changes to their laws, thereby allowing many states with a history of disenfranchisement to further discriminate.
Thankfully, on Wednesday a federal appeals court unanimously struck down a voter ID law in Texas saying it violates the Voting Rights Act. Yet despite that victory, the legislators did not outright acknowledge the law was discriminatory, instead sending it back to lower federal courts to make that decision. The legislators recognized the law had a discriminatory effect on Black and Latino voters but considered this unintentionally discriminatory.
The Texas voter ID law is one of the strictest in the nation, requiring voters have a government-issued photo ID with them. But not all IDs will do; student IDs and even voter registration cards are not accepted.
Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Federal District Court ruled that the law violated certain parts of the Constitution and intentionally discriminated against Black and Latino voters (thus barring Democratic votes since these minority groups tend to vote left). Ruling the law is intentionally discriminatory opens the door for allowing federal oversight over voter ID laws once again, but the appeals court did not think her findings sufficed given that her evidence relied on Texas’ history of racial discrimination in voting and comments from lawmakers who oppose the law.
Even more, the Republican National Committee released a statement on Thursday that read as if they are supporting voters’ rights, but actually reinstated their commitment to suppressing these rights.
“We owe a great deal to those who stood up to discrimination, threats of violence and even death to push for the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965,” the statement reads. “Every citizen should have the chance to vote in our elections while we also work to ensure the integrity of the voting process by preventing things such as mistakes, fraud and confusion.”
Republicans use voter fraud as justification for pressing for tighter restrictions surrounding voter ID laws. The Texas law barred 600,000 Texans that are disproportionately poor, Black and Latino from voting. Yet laws like these, which tackle voter impersonation at the polls, are overwhelmingly rare. A study of the 2004 election found just seven cases of voter fraud committed out of the 3 million votes submitted — none which were voter impersonation at the polls. And out of the 20 million votes cast in the 10 years before the Texas law was created, only two insistences were voter impersonation.
As ThinkProgress points out, Republicans use voter fraud as an “illusion”, a sneaky way to deceive the public that they are protecting voters’ rights by staying so strongly committed to the cause when instead the real reasoning behind their action is a clear manipulation of the process: to suppress the minority vote while simultaneously getting less Democratic votes cast.