Don’t Mess With Texas: Voter ID Law to Stand in Nov. 4 Election

This past weekend, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on Texas’ disputed Voter ID law, SB 14. With the midterm elections less than two weeks away and early voting starting even sooner, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 in a decision to let the law stand for the elections. There has recently been a slew of negative articles in response to this decision. Many of the reports surrounding the Texas Voter ID law makes it sound like a conspiracy to keep minorities from voting. This is a slim and slanted assessment of a complex situation, as it does not take into account the purpose and recent history of Voter ID laws.

SB 14 requires that voters show one of seven approved forms of ID in order to vote. The type of approved IDs ranges from passports to drivers licenses to military IDs. The Texas law has been described as prejudicial by its opponents. Civil Rights groups claim that the aim of the law is to deter and depress specific groups from voting, and these criticisms have fueled much of the news coverage since Saturday’s ruling. However, there are other significant points to consider when discussing SB 14.

There is evidence that it is very easy to conduct voter fraud. This past January, the Nation Review published an article entitled “Voter Fraud: We’ve Got Proof It’s Easy.” The article found a 97 percent success rate when voter fraud was attempted. Many opponents of Voter ID laws claim that this fraud does not exist, and therefore we do not need to guard against it. However, this a limited view. America was the great experiment in democracy. Around the world, the United States is synonymous with our form of government. It is in our best interest to protect against our own vulnerabilities. Voter ID laws stand to uphold the integrity of our elections, thereby correcting this vulnerability.

The debate around Texas’s Voter ID law has been especially pointed because of its perceived strictness. In the decision that put an injunction on SB 14, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos stated that the law was “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” This point has been echoed by civil rights groups who believe the law is a purposeful attempt at marginalizing minorities.

While it is Ramos’ job to  rule on the constitutionality of laws, she is not the be-all, end-all. The finality of this decision sits with the Supreme Court, which is where the case was taken. The Texas Voter ID law is only able to exist because of changes the Supreme Court has made to sections of the Voters Right Acts.  Moreover, in the 2008 Crawford v. Marion Election Board decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Voter ID laws. While many would like dismiss the Texas State Government’s actions, it is acting within its constitutional rights. According to the Supreme Court, Voter ID laws do not carry such a burden.  

Even more relevantly, Texas is not the only state that has recently been granted permission to enforce controversial voting-related laws. Ohio and North Carolina have also been allowed to enforce their laws in the November 4 election. What is unusual about these decisions is the fact that the Supreme Court has not offered opinions on the laws themselves. Instead, they have simply said that the laws will remain for the ever approaching election.

Because formal decisions have not been written, it is impossible to know what the High Court’s rationale has been. However, many speculate that it is to protect against confusion. There are worries that changing election laws so close to election day would create chaos and hurt the elections. This is important to consider. The make-up of Saturday’s vote also signals a rationale in keeping the status quo. While Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer voted on the dissenting side of the 2008 case, he was not part of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissent on the Texas Voter ID law. Any statement of why this has occurred would be merely speculation. However, this switch hints at a specific rationale of why the law should remain in place for the midterms.

There is no question of whether the South has had a complicated history with prejudice.  However, the left’s argument that SB 14 is a just another southern vendetta is not a fair assessment. Voter ID laws are meant to protect the integrity of elections and guard against fraud. As Crawford v. Marion Election Board stands, they are not unconstitutional. With the current polarization of national politics, the last thing we need is to be constantly charging our opponents with ill-intent. Texas is doing what Texas does: protecting its state.