By Jeremy Pelofsky | Reuters – 1 hr 23 mins ago. WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The Obama administration on Monday blocked a new Texas law requiring voters to show photo identification before they can cast a ballot out of concerns it could harm some Hispanic voters who lack such identification.
The state law approved in May 2011 required voters to show government-issued photo identification, which could include a driver's license, a military identification card, a birth certificate with a photo, a current U.S. passport, or a concealed handgun permit.
The Justice Department said that data from Texas showed that almost 11 percent of Hispanic voters, just over 300,000, did not have a driver's license or state issued identification card, and that plans to mitigate those concerns were incomplete.
"Hispanic registered voters are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic registered voters to lack such identification," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a letter to the Texas director of elections outlining the objection.
This is the second state voter identification law blocked by the Obama administration, which earlier objected to a strict new law in South Carolina that it prevented from taking effect. South Carolina then sued in federal court seeking approval of its law.
Under the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, certain states like Texas must seek approval from the Justice Department or the federal courts for changes made to state voting laws and boundaries for voting districts.
The Obama administration has already challenged the state's attempt to re-draw congressional districts and that fight is now before the courts. Texas has also sued to get approval for its voter identification law.
Several other states, including Kansas and Wisconsin, have adopted stricter new voter identification laws, arguing that they were necessary to prevent fraud at the ballot box. However some civil rights groups have said that the laws threatened to suppress minority voters.
In Texas, the Justice Department said that potential voters would have to have two other identification documents to get a certificate allowing them to vote, which could require paying expensive fees for copies of legal documents such as birth certificates.
Additionally, nearly one third of the counties in the state do not have offices where potential voters can obtain a driver's license or state identification card and some residents live more than 100 miles away, the Justice Department said.
Efforts to educate voters about the new identification requirements were also incomplete and the state did not submit any evidence of voter impersonation not already addressed under existing state laws, the administration said.
"The state has failed to demonstrate why it could not meet its stated goals of ensuring electoral integrity and deterring ineligible voters from voting in a manner that would have voided this retrogressive effect," Perez said.
The Texas lawsuit for approval of the voter identification law is: State of Texas v. Holder in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 12-cv-128.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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