Sunday, May 19, 2024

Victory on Voter I.D. in Texas May Cost GOP Support Among Hispanics

In Texas, Republicans have won a fierce battle over requiring voters to present photo IDs at polls.  It is widely perceived that this bill is largely aimed at Hispanics, the fastest-growing group of voters in Texas. Many Latinos feel it is part of state Republican efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Republican leaders negate the notion that promoting a requirement for voters to present a picture or other forms of identification before they vote will damage the party’s minority participation .

Eric Opiela, executive director of the Republican state party, pointed to a University of Texas poll last year that found 70 percent of Texans favor requiring a photo ID to vote – including 68 percent of blacks and 65 percent of Hispanics.

Nevertheless, it has become a very partisan issue, forcing the 19 Republicans in the Senate to change rules to ease the measure past the 12 Democrats after an all-night hearing. A final vote this week will send the bill to the House where Republicans hold a 76-74 advantage.

Rep Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas and others believe the GOP talking points on the issue, commonly referred to as “voter ID,” are anti-Hispanic. He says, “They would have you believe that busloads of illegal immigrants are coming to a district near you and engaging in voter impersonation in order to vote for Democrats.”

Anchia adds, “There is virtually no evidence of anyone – illegal immigrants or others showing up at polling places to vote with someone else’s voter registration card.

“The Latino community is not stupid,” Anchia said. “You can’t call us fat, ugly and stupid for a year and then ask us to go to the prom with you. It’s just not going to happen.”

Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, predicted that if Republicans are able to push through voter ID, it will be just like the immigration issue: “another gift for the Democratic Party.”

Texan Latinos have shown a weakening support in past elections for the GOP in recent years: Latino support in Texas was 49 percent for President George W. Bush in 2004; 44 percent for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2006, when she was the top official on the ballot; and 35 percent last year for John McCain.

Democrats say that requiring a photo ID will be particularly difficult on the disabled, the elderly and low-income workers without driver’s licenses, many of whom are more likely to be racial minorities.

Republican supporters of the measure say the issue of securing the integrity of the ballot is important enough to tighten the ID requirements, even if it inconveniences some.

GOP consultant Royal Masset said it is a “serious mistake” for the Republican Party to put so much emphasis on the issue in Texas, a state with such a large Hispanic population.

Masset, the former political director for the Republican state party, called voter ID “another last straw” for Latinos, who would be forced by Republicans to spend time and money obtaining additional IDs because of an alleged threat of fraudulent voting.  He states,

“One way to get Latinos upset is to start criminalizing them, to imply they are criminals. Hispanics should take this personally, because it is aimed at them.”

Michael Bustamante, a spokesman for the William C. Velasquez Institute, says others states pushing similar measures have GOP leadership that wants to protect the ballot from illegal voters, which is understandable.

Furthermore, Bustamante adds “But it’s the tone and the tenor of the argument,” which seems to be aimed at the growing numbers of Hispanic voters and wondering if they’re legal.

While Republicans say they intend to make Voter ID an election year issue, Democrats vow to do the same.

Dallas Morning News

Houston Chronicle