SAN ANTONIO, TX - Bexar County officials are illegally enforcing the Texas voter ID law struck down as racially discriminatory, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit, filed in state district court by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) on behalf of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), alleges that Bexar County has posted and announced false and unauthorized voter ID requirements in early voting polling places throughout the county, as well as in its recorded telephone message to voters and on its website.
"There is simply no excuse for continuing to display invalid requirements to vote at any polling place in Bexar County," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "The failure to take the simple expedient of removing and replacing the signs suggests a nefarious motive or patent incompetence; neither should be tolerated in this critical election."
MALDEF is asking a state judge to order Bexar County to: remove the illegal voter ID signs and other materials and replace them with the signs promulgated by the Texas Secretary of State for this election; notify poll workers that they cannot display materials that contain the illegal requirements; and update its website and telephone hotline to make clear that voters who lack a government-issued photo ID can show alternative, non-photo ID.
"As turnout in Bexar County rises, voters are met with illegal voter ID signs," said Nina Perales, MALDEF vice president of litigation. "We will not sit idly by while Bexar County enforces an invalid and discriminatory voter ID law."
At issue is the county’s implementation of Texas’ controversial 2011 photo voter identification law. This summer, a federal court of appeals ruled that the law’s restriction of acceptable identification to one of seven government-issued photo IDs discriminated against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Among other things, the law permitted voters to present a concealed handgun license but not a college ID.
Texas was forced, by court order, to expand its list of acceptable IDs and create new signs for polling places to inform voters of the new identification requirements. Some Texas counties, however, failed to adopt the new rules and continue to post the strict and invalid requirements in their polling places.
Bexar is the fourth-largest county in Texas, with more than 1 million registered voters. An estimated 60 percent of Bexar County’s population is Hispanic.
The Bexar County Elections administration responded to the lawsuit by releasing a statemt, which reads:
Today, Jacque Callanen, Bexar County Elections Administrator agreed to a Temporary Restraining Order in order to avoid a drawn out hearing on the allegations made by Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. This election has had evolving changes to the Voter ID and the posting requirements at the polling places. The elections office has responded to all issues brought to its attention and corrected any issues that may have existed at the polling places when early voting began. These issues were not significant and did not result in a single voter being disallowed to vote. In fact, there has been record voting this election cycle. However, to ensure the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and voters of Bexar County that its election officials are complying with all of the rules governing this election the Elections Department voluntarily agreed to enter the temporary order.