Texas Voter ID law ruled unconstitutional. Here’s a breakdown on its impact.

vote-buttonA federal district judge on Friday, Oct. 10, struck down Texas’ voter photo identification law, just 10 days before early voting in the state is to begin.

In her 140-plus-page decision, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law “a poll tax” and “discriminatory”  against African-Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed the decision, urging the Fifth Circuit to “resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election,” said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office.

Explaining his appeal, Abbott said he believed the sudden ruling could confuse voters and burden election administrators. “Voters need certainty when they go to the polls and having this decision come out just 10 days before early voting begins injects uncertainty so I’m asking a court of appeals to decide this before early voting begins a week from Monday,” he told KXAN.

In the meantime, the law’s opponents praised the decision.

“Now we must redouble our efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act and to ensure that every LGBTQ voter gets the opportunity to vote at the upcoming election,” said the Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of National LGBTQ Task Force.

Texas state. Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running against Abbott for governor, blasted Abbott’s appeal. “This is great news for democracy. I call on Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his defense of a law that a court has now called a ‘poll tax’ and ‘discriminatory’ against African-Americans and Hispanics.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, agreed. “Abbott should do what’s best for all Texans instead of pushing his discriminatory political agenda that would disenfranchise eligible voters.”

While the judge believes the law discriminates against African-Americans and Hispanics, the ruling impacts the transgender community as well.

According to the Williams Institute, a LGBT policy think tank, of the 25,000 eligible transgender voters in Texas, around 6,800, or 27%, do not have updated voter ID records.

Should the ruling be upheld, said Nell Gaither of the Trans Pride Initiative, “It makes it easier for transpeople to vote.” But she added that the transgender community still faces barriers most other voters do not.

Texas does not have a statewide law accommodating people who have transitioned from one gender to another; voters or would-be voters must rely on their county laws.

Chad Dunn, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, told the Lone Star Project he believes Abbott will appeal to the Fifth Circuit and likely ask for the U.S. Supreme Court’s final say.

“To my knowledge, a law found to be intentionally discriminatory, after a full trial on the merits, has never been allowed to remain in effect,” Dunn said.

—  James Russell

Advocate says Texas voter ID bill will force transgender people to out themselves at polls

Rep. Van Taylor of Plano believes only the right people should vote.

The Republican-backed voter ID bill passed the Texas House of Representatives on Wednesday night.

During the floor debate on the bill, Laredo Democrat Richard Raymond asked, “Anytime you deal with a law as comprehensive and as big as this you have to take into account people’s voting rights. You would agree with that, right?”

Plano Republican Van Taylor said, “I think it is important to remember that this bill is about making sure that the right people show up on election day and vote.”

“That the right people show up on election day?” Raymond asked. “Who are the right people?”

As much as any group, the transgender community will be affected if — and when – this bill becomes law.

Katy Stewart of the Transgender Education Network of Texas said her organization opposes voter ID bills.

“This law would make transgender persons out themselves at the polls,” she said.

Lisa Scheps, former executive director of TENT, said the law would have a tremendous effect on transgender people.

“So many times transgender people are cross-identified,” Scheps said.

If the photo on a government-issued identification doesn’t match someone’s presentation, the ID will be questioned and the person may be denied the right to vote, she said. While the transgender community wasn’t the main target of this legislation, she said many in the community will be affected.

“It’s a bad bill,” she said. “One more way to disenfranchise many groups of people.”

—  David Taffet

Ramos is a dinosaur at the brink of extinction

By ELENA GUAJARDO and EDUARDO JUAREZ
Co-chairs, Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio

It is a shame and painfully unfair that the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio are forced to respond to the continued discriminatory ravings and completely baseless accusations of Dan Ramos, the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party.  Mr. Ramos unapologetically bellows bald and bigoted charges, singling out Stonewall Democrats as “termites” and as the “Nazi Party.” But he fails to provide even the most rudimentary factual support for any of his purported allegations of misconduct, because his accusations are simply false.

This is a crucial time for Texans: the Republican-controlled Texas legislature is busy passing the most anti-Latino and anti-employer immigration legislation in our era; restricting voters rights through onerous voter ID requirements and biased redistricting; raising medically unsound obstacles to the long-held reproductive freedoms of women; and cutting billions of dollars to public education, further weakening the Texas economy. And yet, in the face of these pressing challenges for Democrats, Mr. Ramos has chosen to worry about whether his “fishing buddy” is gay. He has, moreover, apparently decided to hurl inflammatory bigoted remarks (such as referring to gays as a “sinister movement” and comparing homosexuals to “children stricken with polio”) to deflect attention from his own utter incompetence and misconduct as party chair.

The good thing, if we can find a silver lining in these turbulent times for Bexar County Democrats, is that Mr. Ramos is a dinosaur at the brink of extinction. He is irrelevant to our times, will be removed as party chair, and will never again be elected to public office in this county or state — not because of his age or ailments, but because of his archaic and decrepit discriminatory views that are contrary to the definitive trend of justice in the entire Western Hemisphere. True leaders do not succumb to irrelevancy even after their physical death. Even as early as the 1970s, the iconic Mexican-American civil rights lion Cesar Chavez strongly and vocally supported lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.

Following this icon’s visionary leadership is a swell of voices that will continue to increase, from all corners, condemning Mr. Ramos’ bigoted remarks and calling for his resignation. Indeed, the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio hope and demand that all fair-minded Bexar County Democrats, including our elected officials, party leaders, and voters strongly voice their opposition to Mr. Ramos’ views, demand his immediate resignation, and support his ouster.

—  admin

Gay-baiting as a distraction from real issues

Jim Schutze at The Dallas Observer has a good piece up today about politicians using issues like immigration, abortion and gay rights to distract voters from real problems, such as Texas’ current budget shortfall and — more generally — how badly rich people in the U.S. are screwing everyone else over. Here’s an excerpt:

So it’s like this: We ask, “Mr. Governor, what are you going to about the huge deficit that’s going to screw up our kids’ schools and toss our grandparents out in the street and mess up the whole state?”

And he says, “LOOK OVER THERE! A MEXICAN!”

It’s not just Perry. It’s all of the Republicans now. Ask state Sen. Florence Shapiro what she’s going to do to protect colleges and universities from the shortfall. She’ll start talking about how we need “voter ID”

“LOOK! LOOK! A MEXICAN TRYING TO VOTE!”

And if that doesn’t work, the Republicans will point toward San Francisco and say, “LOOK! LOOK! TWO GUYS KISSING!”

Or, “LOOK! LOOK! A SLUT GETTING AN ABORTION.”

In reading Schutze’s piece, we couldn’t help being reminded of this George Carlin bit, so we figured we’d go ahead and share it too:

—  John Wright