Trial Begins This Week as MALDEF Attorneys Invoke Voter Rights Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representing a coalition of community partners, MALDEF intervened in a federal lawsuit between Texas and the United States over Texas's passage of a discriminatory voter identification law that would keep minorities and others from exercising their right to vote.

According to the section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas is one of 16 states required to receive federal approval before changing voter laws because of the State’s history of discriminating against minorities at the polls.

The lawsuit by Texas seeks permission from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to impose identification procedures that discriminate against Latinos in Texas.

MALDEF has intervened to give a voice to two, 18-year-old Latina women who are registered to vote in Texas, but who lack the photo identification required under Texas's new law and so would not be able to exercise their right to vote if Texas’s law is upheld. MALDEF also represents two organizations that conduct voter registration and education campaigns, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, who are aware through their outreach of the disproportionate impact Texas’s voter identification law would have on the Latino community.

At trial this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, MALDEF Senior Litigator, Jorge Sanchez and MALDEF Legislative Staff Attorney, Luis Figueroa are representing the two Latina voters, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.

Luis Figueroa stated, "The Texas Legislature overreached in an attempt to find a solution to a nonexistent problem. Thankfully the Voting Rights Act protects minority voters like our two young Latina voters from discriminatory laws like SB 14."

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked Texas' Voter ID law on the grounds that the law disproportionately harms Latino voters. MALDEF submitted a letter to the Department of Justice opposing pre-clearance of Texas' law.

Thomas A. Saenz stated, "In a time when we should be working to expand the franchise, Texas has enacted a law to deny some citizens the right to vote. MALDEF is proud to be working to stop this regressive measure."

With the current lawsuit, Texas challenges the determination made by the U.S. Department of Justice. If Texas is successful before the U.S. District Court, Texas’s new law and its voter identification requirements will be in place for the 2012 elections.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund