By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
Local reaction to the U.S. Justice Department's rejection of the state's voter ID law was a mixture of satisfaction and criticism Monday.
The Texas law requires voters to produce a government-issued photo identification card prior to casting in-person ballots, but the state needed federal approval before enacting the law.
Bell County Clerk Shelly Coston said procedures already are in place to stop voter fraud, and the photo-identification requirement is a secondary measure.
"As far as elections, the voter has already been validated by the voter registrar as a registered voter," she said. "So, when they get to the polls, this is a second precautionary measure."
TaNeika Driver, president of the Killeen branch of the NAACP, said the state's law basically is a solution in search of a problem and was happy with the Justice Department's decision.
"(The state) hasn't found any (issues of voting fraud)," she said. "It doesn't address any voting issues in Texas, so why have a law when there haven't been any voting issues in Texas?"
She said the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus joined together to fight the law and keep it from being enacted.
State Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, said the federal government overstepped its bounds in rejecting the state law.
"I'm not happy at all. What we had in Texas was a very good bill," he said. "We brought voter integrity back to the polls, not prevent anyone from voting."
In rejecting the state law, the Justice Department ruled it was unfair to Hispanics and persons living too far from a Texas Department of Public Safety office, which issues photo identification cards.
"According to the most recent American Community Survey three-year estimates, 7.3 percent of Hispanic or Latino households do not have an available vehicle, as compared with only 3.8 percent of non-Hispanic white households that lack an available vehicle," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the civil rights division in the Justice Department.
"Statistically significant correlations exist between the Hispanic voting-age population percentage of a county, and the percentage of occupied housing units without a vehicle," wrote Perez.
In other reactions, state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who sponsored the voter ID measure in Senate Bill 14, said the state will fight to enact the law.
"Voting is one of our most fundamental rights. I believe it is my responsibility as an elected official to ensure that legitimate votes cast by Texans are not diluted by those voting fraudulently," said Fraser in a statement.
"This legislation is not a radical concept. I am just asking that every voter verify that 'you are who you say you are' before casting his or her vote."
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.