The State of Texas and the US Department of Justice are slugging it out in federal court over DOJ’s request to depose 12 Texas lawmakers on behind-the-scene details of the state’s 2011 law requiring voters to produce valid government-issued photo IDs (Court Orders More Briefings).
The Issues. Texas and a number of other states & municipalities have histories of discriminatory practices and therefore the Voting Rights Act requires a federal court or the DOJ to issue “pre-clearance” on new electoral laws which, in this instance, the DOJ declined to grant based on its concerns about discrimination.
Reflecting those concerns, DOJ is seeking to depose 12 key lawmakers involved in creation of the legislation plus obtain copies of written communications on the bill from members of the Legislature.
For its part, Texas is challenging both the continuation of the “pre-clearance” requirement – which it claims single out Texas unfairly – and the depositions and document request, which it terms “an unwarranted intrusion into the operations of the Texas Legislature.”
The Questions That Arise. Laws that affect the composition of the electorate are critical at all levels of government in a democracy. The US has made a remarkable transition over our history, going from “white-guys-who-own-land” to essentially all adult citizens.
Likewise, Americans have historically disliked “central control” or “one size fits all”. While States Rights have weakened through the years, our system is still based on the concept that independent governance at the state & local level is an important aspect of our liberty.
The dispute over the Texas Voter ID Law and the DOJ’s request for depositions & documents, therefore, has a lot of constitutional angles. Maybe (hopefully) the federal court will be able to answer some of the most obvious questions:
- Why is requiring a voter to produce an ID discriminatory? You need an ID to drive a car, cash a check, buy alcohol & some prescriptions, leave/enter the country, get into a club, receive credit of any kind, and pick up tickets. So why is that discriminatory?
- Why won’t Texas permit their lawmakers to be deposed under oath regarding this law? It creates suspicion – what’s the problem with simply talking about what went on?
- Why does the federal government have a right to interfere with a state legislature doing its job? Doesn’t the DOJ recognize the ability & responsibility of Texas to govern its own state?
- Why should a state with a history of discrimination be given any leeway regarding voting rights?
- The Voting Right s Act was passed in 1965. That’s 47 years ago…isn’t it time to give it a rest?
About the Author: Elizabeth Tice heads up Office Solutions Plus LLC, where we provide documents of record for all venues, including court reporting, depositions, and transcription. We understand the importance and value of accurate records. 617-471-3510. Try us out!