AUSTIN, Texas — The Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the Texas NAACP filed a lawsuit Tuesday to overturn the state's Voter ID law, joining the Justice Department in fighting the law.
The two groups filed their petition with a federal court in Corpus Christi, the same court where other civil rights groups and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are fighting the requirement that voters must show a government-issued photo ID card to cast a ballot.
All of the law's opponents are arguing the Republican-controlled Legislature created an illegal barrier to voting for poor minorities and people who live in rural areas. Minorities make up the majority of voters who do not have one of the six forms of ID required. Only the Election Identification Certificate is available for free from the Department of Public Safety.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has defended the law as necessary to ensure fair elections. All three lawsuits are expected to be consolidated into one later this year in federal court. So far the plaintiffs have not asked the judge to stop implementation of the law in time for November's constitutional referendums.
"As our state's top legal official, Attorney General Abbott should be working with minority communities, not against us, to ensure that the voting process is straightforward and non-partisan," said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the San Antonio Democrat who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP and the Department of Justice fought a similar case in Washington, D.C., where a three-judge panel stopped enforcement of the law. But the U.S. Supreme Court took away the lower court's power to pre-emptively stop the Voter ID law from taking effect.
"As we all know, Texas has a voter identification law that has already been ruled to be discriminatory by a bipartisan three-judge panel in Washington, D.C.," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP Texas State Conference. "It is only by a technicality that the law may now be implemented."
Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott, said the Texas law was based on one that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled is constitutional.
"Voter IDs are required of every Texan — regardless of race — and are offered free of charge to anyone who needs one," she said. "The partisan groups who continue to attack this commonsense, popular ballot integrity measure have failed to produce a single Texan who has been or will be prevented from voting."