Voter ID

Capital Tonight: Lawmaker weighs in on regent investigation, voter ID

The investigation of a University of Texas regent continued Wednesday, with damaging testimony from a former UT system employee. Just down the road, another high-profile hearing wrapped up after final arguments regarding a controversial new abortion law.

LAWMAKER RESPONDS

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is part of the eight-member panel looking into UT Regent Wallace Hall. He joined us for a one-on-one interview about the committee’s fact-finding mission, voter ID law and recent controversy over his legal name.

AGGIES IN ISRAEL

Gov. Rick Perry continued his visit to Israel Wednesday, joining President Shimon Peres for a signing ceremony to formalize plans to bring a Texas A&M campus to the Middle East. Perry and the university announced plans for a Nazareth branch earlier this week. Click the logo below to watch Wednesday night’s full episode.

Capital Tonight: Voter ID, abortion laws face new tests

One of the most controversial laws passed this legislative session saw its first day in court Monday. Women’s groups are challenging House Bill 2, which enacts some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from the plaintiffs about why they believe the law should be put on hold, and why state attorneys say their case is strong. Plus, we spoke to county election officials about how the newly implemented voter ID law will work at ground level.

ELECTION INFORMATION

We’ve talked a lot about the water initiative known as Proposition 6 leading up to the Nov. 5 election, but there are other measures to consider, including one constitutional amendment that could drastically change the process of home ownership among our aging population. We sat down with Scott Norman of Texans for Proposition 5 about why he supports the measure.

ENROLLMENT CHECKUP

The government shutdown is over, but another federal hangup continues. The website where people can shop for health insurance is still seeing heavy delays, a problem for which President Barack Obama says there’s no excuse. We heard from the president about what’s being done to fix it, and got an update from local enrollment organizers about how the effort is going closer to home.

DOJ to file suit against Texas’ Voter ID Law

The Department of Justice will file a lawsuit challenging Texas’ Voter ID Law. In announcing the suit, the DOJ named the State of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The DOJ believes that the law “violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

In addition to the suit focused on Voter ID, the department also filed a motion to intervene in the ongoing redistricting case being considered by a federal three-judge panel in San Antonio.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released today. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights. The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had announced that the Voter ID Law would take effect immediately, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding part of the Voting Rights Act. That ruling suspended federal pre-clearance requirements for states with a history of discrimination in voting matters. The Justices determined that the pre-clearance formula was dated. Congress would have to come up with a new formula for that portion of the Voting Rights Act to be valid once again.

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers hit the road after passing transportation funding

The final piece of a plan to increase funding for the state’s roads and bridges passed shortly after 9:30 Monday night, by a vote of 124-2. Minutes later, House lawmakers adjourned Sine Die, pending administrative duties.

The complete package will divert half of the money earmarked for the state’s Rainy Day Fund toward the State Highway Fund instead. Estimated at nearly a billion dollars per year, the money would go toward construction and maintenance for non-tolled roads, and would fill almost a quarter of the $4 billion in funding Texas Department of Transportation officials say they need.

The two-part plan includes a funding mechanism, known as Senate Joint Resolution 1, which will go before voters as a ballot measure in 2014. The second part of the funding plan, known as House Bill 1, details the way lawmakers decide how much money gets left in the Rainy Day Fund. It also directs TxDOT to find cost-cutting measures without reducing funding for transportation projects.

Lawmakers failed to get a similar plan passed during the previous special session after falling short of the 100 votes needed.

In our special, 11 p.m. broadcast, we checked in with Rep. Joe Pickett shortly before the final vote, and talked to the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg about the latest on funding for the Public Integrity Unit.

DOWN THE BALLOT

Questions about voting law in Texas aren’t going away anytime soon, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling and a vote on redistricting maps by Texas lawmakers. To find out where the issue is headed from here, we spoke to Michael Li of the Texas Redistricting & Election Law blog.

BACK IN WASHINGTON

Plus, State Sen. Wendy Davis was back in Washington Monday, this time headlining a luncheon at the National Press Club. Speaking in front of journalists and Democratic supporters, the woman who made headlines with a nearly 11-hour filibuster didn’t shy away from her rising profile. Click the YNN logo below to see the full episode.

Abbott accuses federal government of using Voting Rights Act for political gain

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is lashing out against the federal government’s attempts to force Texas to obtain approval before it can change its voting laws. Earlier today, Attorney General Holder said the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal court to require Texas to ask for permission before changing its election laws. The move follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that suspended the use of a pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Two pieces of Texas legislation — Voter ID and redistricting — hinge on the decisions made regarding the Voting Rights Act. Both laws were challenged in court and the federal government denied pre-clearance based on their findings that the legislation intentionally discriminated against minorities.

Abbott has been leading the charge against the part of the Voting Rights Act that requires Texas to go through this process. According to Abbott, the Supreme Court’s ruling makes those lower court ruling null and void. 

“The Supreme Court vacated those decisions. So those decisions no longer exist as a matter of law and cannot be used for any legal purposes,” Abbott said.

During a teleconference, Abbott said it was not necessary to put Texas back under federal oversight. He accused the Obama administration of using the legal system to help Democrats’ cause at the ballot box.

“I believe the Obama administration is joining with the Democrat party in the state of Texas in a lawsuit aimed at the 2014 elections rather than trying to protect the rights of minorities. I think this is an abuse of the Voting Rights Act for partisan, political purpose,” Abbott said.

It will be up to a federal district court in San Antonio to decide if it will grant the Department of Justice’s request. Abbott says if that happens, he’ll appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mixed reaction to Holder’s comments on Texas voting laws

Texas political leaders are commenting on remarks made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Texas voting laws.

Holder told members of the National Urban League on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal court to require Texas to ask for permission before changing its election laws. The move follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentialy eliminated the use of a pre-clerance provision of the Voting Rights Act for states with a history of discrimination.

“Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Republican Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement released in response. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

Democratic State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston had a different take on Holder’s announcement.

“I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to join the lawsuit that would require Texas to submit all voting law changes for preclearance for the next decade,” Ellis said in his own statement released to the media.  “Anyone who thinks Texas doesn’t need continued oversight simply hasn’t been paying attention.”

Ellis added that, in his view, Texas has clearly shown a repeated and documented history of discrimination against minority voters, pointing to last year when he said Texas was singled out as the only state to pass redistricting maps which were deliberately discriminatory.

“This is hopefully just the first step,” Ellis said.  “Congress needs to take action [to] revamp the Voting Rights Act to create a formula which takes into account current and historical discrimination and bias while meeting the requirements the Supreme Court has set out.  Otherwise, the voting rights of millions of Americans are in peril.”

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was also quick to respond to Holder’s comments.

“By first going around the voters and now the Supreme Court, Attorney General Holder and President Obama’s intentions are readily transparent,” Cornyn said in a released statement. ” This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda. Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama Administration.”

Abbott: Voter ID law to take effect immediately

The state’s attorney general says today’s ruling from the Supreme Court removes the need for judicial review, allowing changes to voting law being held up in court to take effect immediately.

That includes a law passed in 2011 that requires all Texans to show a valid photo ID in order to vote, as well as changes to state redistricting maps.

“Today’s ruling ensures that Texas is no longer one of just a few states that must seek approval from the federal government before its election laws can take effect,” Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement released this morning.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is following suit. According to a statement on the agency’s website, “Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.” For those without the proper identification, DPS says it will start accepting applications for an alternative ID, known as an Election Identification Certificate.

Federal court rejects Texas voter ID law



YNN’s Erin Billups shares reaction from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the video above.

A federal court has ruled against a Texas law that would require voters to present photo IDs to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots in November.

A three-judge panel in Washington ruled Thursday that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

The decision involves an increasingly contentious political issue: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governor’s offices, to impose strict identification requirements on voters.

The ruling comes in the same week that South Carolina’s strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected in time for the November election.

Click here to read the court’s full opinion.

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To see all of Erin’s conversation with Attorney General Greg Abbott, click the video below.