Washington, D.C., August 6, 2015 – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) releases, “The VRA at 50: The Texas Voter ID Story”—a report and interactive multimedia timeline to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 and make the case that Congress must act to restore the Act’s full protections. The report and timeline come on the heels of the August 5th Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which found Texas’ photo ID requirement violated Section 2 of the VRA. The report and timeline are published on the Lawyers’ Committee’s revamped website designed to enhance user experience with tools that highlight the organization’s work.
Through storytelling, data analysis, and legal analysis, the timeline and report illustrate how the Texas photo identification law illustrates the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision of 2013 that struck down the coverage formula of the VRA. Without the coverage formula, Section 5 of the VRA was rendered inoperable, and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in voting are no longer subject to federal review of proposed voting practices and procedures. “The Texas photo ID law is a poignant example of the impact of losing Section 5’s protections. Discriminatory voting-related changes that were blocked under Section 5 are now allowed to take effect, which is particularly alarming ahead of a presidential election year,” said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee.
The multimedia timeline uses videos, maps, and an educational overview of events to illustrate how the State of Texas came to implement a strict photo ID law for in-person voting that has been found discriminatory against minority voters. The report provides a legal analysis of the separate challenges to the photo ID law under Section 5 and Section 2 of the VRA, and argues that Section 2, while important, cannot replace the unique protections of Section 5. The report delves further into the law’s impact on racial minorities in Texas, including trial evidence and supporting data, and stories from Texan voters who contacted the Lawyers’ Committee-led nonpartisan Election Protection coalition in 2014. “The Fifth Circuit’s opinion represents the third federal court to rule that this law was discriminatory from the outset, and this report demonstrates how this law should never have been in effect,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee.
“Today marks 50 years since the VRA was signed by President Johnson to ensure comprehensive protections of voting rights for all Americans. So, today, we release these publications to strengthen our call to action: the time is now for Congress to restore the VRA,” remarked Johnson-Blanco.