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Texas Democrats pushing state to deliver more race data on voter ID impact

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/vote_80.jpgAfter a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for more information on Texas’ new law requiring state-issued photo ID at polling places, the Texas secretary of state’s office responded last week, with details on how it’ll publicize the election law changes, and some information on the 605,576 registered Texas voters who don’t have a driver’s license.

But the state’s response didn’t include the racial breakdown of Texas voters that the DOJ asked for, because, the secretary of state said, voters registering in Texas aren’t required to list their race.

Instead, Texas passed along a county-by-county breakdown of voters without driver’s licenses who’d need a new ID to vote in the 2012 election. As the DOJ had requested, the state also included a breakdown of how many of those voters have Hispanic last names.

But on Tuesday, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie sent the DOJ a letter of his own, saying the state “left out the most important bit of information” in the data they sent: the percentage of voters without driver’s licenses who have Hispanic last names.

Along with the letter, Richie included a new version of the state’s spreadsheet with that extra column, highlighting the 46 Texas counties in which voters with Hispanic names make up more than half of the people likely to be disenfranchised under the new law.

“County by county we can see the difference,” Richie writes. “This is just more shell games and obfuscation from the SOS to try to hide the fact that this law is discriminatory.”

Along with Latino voters, Richie writes, data will show black and Asian voters are also affected disproportionately. The state democratic party has offered to pay for a demographic analysis of the voters without photo IDs, to help answer the DOJ’s question about race that the secretary of state’s office couldn’t.

On Monday, state Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) also intervened to try and answer the race question. In a letter to Texas’ Director of Elections Ann McGeehan (read it below), Ellis asked her to forward their data to the state demographer’s office, to give the DOJ its answer on the photo ID requirement’s effects beyond Latino voters.

Ellis also sent an official request for the work to Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Potter told the Texas Independent he’s working with the secretary of state’s office to get started on the project, but how long it takes will depend on the quality of the state’s data — if he’s allowed to get at a look at it.

“We don’t hold registration data, and we don’t have direct access to them,” Potter said, so the Texas State Data Center — which analyzes U.S. census data for Texas agencies — will have to work with the secretary of state to get information on the voters, including their addresses, birthdays and sex. Potter said he’s not sure whether that’s all open records, or something that’ll take a more complicated disclosure process.

If access to the voter rolls isn’t an issue, and if it all looks fairly complete, Potter said the job could take his staff a matter of days. But either way, he said, it’s uncharted territory for the state data center.

“We’ve never been asked to do this in the past,” Potter said. “There’s never been a law like this in the past.”

Rodney Ellis letter to SOS on Voter ID stats

Rodney Ellis letter to state demographer on Voter ID stats

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