As Abbott champions voter ID on campaign trail, opponents renew fight


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 6:40 PM

AUSTIN -- On his campaign stops across Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott's (R-TX) fight to defend requiring photo identification at the polls has become part of his pitch in the race to become governor.

"Let me tell you, voter fraud is real," Abbott told supporters at an event Monday in Round Rock. "It must be stopped, and we are going to fight this case against Eric Holder to prevent cheating and illegal voting in the state of Texas."

In August, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder renewed the Justice Department's battle against the Texas law which federal judges ruled deliberately discriminated against minority voters. The announcement came on the heels of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act which required Texas to obtain federal permission before making any changes to voting laws, effectively ending the legal challenge to voter ID.

"Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC). The caucus joined with the Texas NAACP to file their own discrimination lawsuit Tuesday with a federal court in Corpus Christi.

"In-person voter impersonation doesn't happen in the state of Texas," said Martinez Fischer. "There have been maybe one, if not perhaps two prosecutions over the last two to three election cycles, but in turn there are 795,000 people in the state of Texas that are registered to vote and do not have a drivers license. What are we going to do for them? How are we going to help them to make sure they can vote when they've never had a problem voting in the past?"

Opponents of the legislation have used numbers derived from comparing a list of registered voters to that of drivers' licenses on record with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), although some portion of the discrepancies could also come from people who are dead, have changed or abbreviated their name, or data entry errors.

"We've had dead people casting votes, live people voting twice, foreign nationalist registered to vote illegally," Abbott assured supporters Monday. Questioned afterward about the extreme rarity of the type of fraud voter ID would prevent, Abbott argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the rate of voter fraud doesn't matter in states wishing to enact similar legislation.

"What the Supreme Court said in the Indiana case is that in Indiana, never in the history of the state was there a single case of voter fraud, of voter impersonation, that a voter identification would have stopped," said Abbott. "Nevertheless, voter identification was necessary in order to address the looming threat of voter fraud in that state."

Martinez Fischer says a status conference in the MALC and Texas NAACP lawsuit has been set for October 27, but acknowledges an injunction to block the photo ID requirements before elections this November is unlikely.