A law professor told GOP Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday that Texas’ voter ID law is racist in a tense exchange during a Senate hearing on voting rights.
Cruz had asked Franita Tolson, the vice dean for faculty and academic affairs and a law professor at the University of Southern California, if she found voter ID laws racist.
After Tolson responded that it “depends,” Cruz asked specifically, “What voter ID laws are racist?”
“Apologies Mr. Cruz, your state of Texas, perhaps,” Tolson responded.
Texas has among the strictest voting laws in the country, and the state has been subject to national scrutiny in recent weeks after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan poll watchers.
The state’s voter ID law, which passed in 2011 and went into effect in 2013 after the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, required voters to present government-issued photo IDs, such as a state driver’s license, a Texas election identification certificate, a US passport or a military identification card.
Supporters said requiring photo IDs before casting a vote would prevent voter fraud. Critics, however, argued the law disenfranchised poor and minority voters, who face difficulties obtaining IDs.
A federal court had blocked the measure during the 2016 election, but lawmakers put in place a second measure — Senate Bill 5 — that allowed voters who had no photo ID to vote by signing a declaration and providing supporting documentation.
Asked by Cruz on Wednesday what made Texas’ voter ID law racist, Tolson responded: “The fact that the voter ID law was put into place to diminish the political power of Latinos with racist intent.”
Beyond Texas, Republican-controlled states across the country have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud and clamped down on access to the ballot box this year. Already, Florida, Georgia and other states have enacted new restrictive voting laws.
Passing new voting legislation in Congress will almost certainly require altering filibuster rules, since Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate isn’t enough to overcome GOP opposition — and it’s not clear Democrat have the votes to pass a bill anyway. Last week, Senate Democrats proposed new legislation to overhaul voting laws after months of discussions to get all 50 of their members behind a single bill, and the new proposal is expected to come up for a procedural vote soon.
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