Nelva Gonzales Ramos earned her law degree from U of T in 1991 and was confirmed by unanimous consent to the bench in 2011, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. She now has the Texas Voter ID case in her court and must decide whether the law brought by Attorney General Greg Abbott, who will almost certainly be governor of Texas come early November, discriminates against the poor and elderly. It is assumed they vote Democrat more than Republican. It is also assumed that Voter ID Laws are about discrimination.

The right to vote has been defined over the years by four amendments to the Constitution that have expanded the franchise from the mid-19th century through the early seventies when 18 to 20 year olds were given the right to vote. The Constitution itself did not explicitly state who had the right to vote and that right has been expanded by the courts and the legislatures over the last 150 years or so. Is the Texas law a step backwards? Should Texas have to bend over backwards to prove it is not discriminating against voters?

The best way to answer that question is to look at the details of the law itself. You basically need a legitimate photo ID that can be one of seven types, from a driver’s license to an Election Identification Certificate or EIC. Passports and Military ID’s are part of the list as well. Does this requirement seem onerous and discriminatory? These types of documents are the basis of one’s legal identity in most states, and many other countries as well. Voting is both a right and a responsibility in the US, and obtaining such ID’s seems a reasonable act of responsibility. Is voter fraud a major problem? Perhaps not, because the issue is more a case of who else will have the right to vote in future elections, whatever the intentions of Texas in framing the law. For example, for voting rights activists convicted felons should be able to vote. Are alien voting rights next on the list? Beyond immediate partisan gain in any given election, this is the bigger issue that is waiting in the wings and that judge Ramos will perhaps have to consider. Right now, the case will be about whether the law is discriminatory, but the right of permanent residents who are not US citizens to vote has already been attempted in Texas by representative Roberto Alonso in 1995. Judge Ramos has a lot more on her plate than she might have asked for. Her ruling, and other court decisions that follow, will resonate far beyond the November elections.

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