OTR Interviews

Justice Department blocks Texas' voter ID requirement: Part of Obama's ongoing war against the Lone Star State?

Texas attorney general responds to Justice Department's objection to a new photo ID law


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 12, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The Obama administration says no to Texas, the Justice Department today blocking a new photo ID requirement for Texas voters. Why? Well, Justice Department officials say the new Texas law discriminates against Hispanic voters. They say Hispanic voters are as much 120 percent more likely than non-Hispanics voters to lack a driver's license or state-issued ID -- 120 percent.

But Texas attorney General Greg Abbott is not happy with the Justice Department. Attorney General Abbott joins us. Good evening, sir.

GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good evening, Greta. Great to be back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to have you, sir. All right, well, the Department of Justice said that you didn't prove that your new photo ID was not discriminatory against Hispanics, actually poor Hispanics. So tell me why you disagree with them.

ABBOTT: Well, Greta, this is just politics. This is part of Obama's ongoing war against the state of Texas. Listen, voter ID and having to present a voter ID when you go vote is something that almost everyone agrees upon. In the state of Texas, more than 75 percent of the people agree, even most of the Democrats agree, that you should post a photo ID when you go vote.

This is a program that has already been upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court for other states. If this is legal and OK for other states, certainly it should be legal and OK for the state of Texas.

Greta, importantly, if you look the United States Supreme Court decision issued just a few years ago, it said that a voter identification requirement is race-neutral way of ensuring integrity at the ballot box -- go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one of the things you can do is go -- you can go to the U.S. district court here in Washington. Do you intend to do that?

ABBOTT: Yes. I've already filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., before a three-judge panel seeking pre-clearance from that court. You see, Texas is one of the states that has to get pre-clearance before we can even implement something like voter ID. That's why other states, like Indiana, Kansas and some other states already have voter ID implemented for this election cycle. But Texas has to go through this pre-clearance process.

Going back, Greta, to an oral argument we had before the Supreme Court two months ago, from the bench, Justice Kennedy said it seems like the section 5 pre-clearance standards put Texas at a disadvantage compared to other states. That is being borne out here in the voter I situation, where Texas is at a disadvantage compared to other states that get to impose this law ensuring integrity at the ballot box.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm trying to sort of figure out how much this costs. And from what I can tell from the Justice Department letter and the materials I've read is that -- is that if a voter doesn't possess any photo identification, that the least expensive option, according to the letter, is to spend $22 on a copy of the voter's birth certificate.

Is that enough in Texas? Are we down to $22 and we should now look to where we get the $22 for each person? But is that what it is, for -- we're talking about $22 a person?

ABBOTT: Greta, it is far cheaper than that. That is one of several factual misstatements that is contained in the document filed by the United States Department of Justice. What that cost refers to is the cost of obtaining a copy of your birth certificate, if you feel like you need that in order to get the photo ID.

Tracing back to what we're talking about here, for those who don't possess a driver's license or other state-issued photo ID or a passport, Texas is willing to give you one of those for free. One of the ways you can go about getting that photo ID is by having your birth certificate, but there are other ways that don't require you to go out and get a copy of your birth certificate. Just giving to the Texas Department of Public Safety your voter registration card is enough for you to be able to get the photo ID. So it'll cost you nothing, and the state of Texas will give it to you for free.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you get it the day before the election or even the day of election if you still want to vote that day? I mean, you know, is - - I'm trying to figure out what the barriers might be. Can you get it -- can you get it that close to the election or on election day?

ABBOTT: Greta, you can get it after the election. If you don't have a photo ID on the day of the election, you cast what's called a provisional ballot, and you can even go get the photo ID after the election takes place. That's how easy it is. And so there's no excuse. There's no obstacle, no hurdle. It's easy for anyone to get this in order to ensure that we don't have cheating at the ballot box.

VAN SUSTEREN: Attorney General, thank you, and we're going to follow your three-judge panel case here in the District of Columbia. Thank you, sir.

ABBOTT: Thank you, Greta.