Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said on Thursday the research backing the Justice Department’s challenge to Texas’s voter identification law comes from a company with strong ties to the Democratic Party, creating what he believes to be a conflict of interest.
The House Judiciary Chairman said Catalist, a private data company based in Washington D.C., is “really an agent” of the Democratic Party.
If the department intentionally used a left-leaning data company to raise support for overturning Texas’s nascent voter identification law it would be a “disturbing” misuse of taxpayer dollars and “undermine the credibility of the department’s challenge of the law,” Smith contends.
Catalist’s self-described mission is to provide “progressive” organizations with data and services. Its clients include, among others, the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the ACLU, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a number of other Democratic lawmakers. (A full list of its clients can be found here.) Smith notes in his letter that The Atlantic described Catalist as a “big Democratic data warehouse.”
The Justice Department concluded in March that the Texas law, which requires voters to have state-issued identification to cast ballots, is illegal because it has the potential to disenfranchise Hispanic voters.
“According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification,” Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez told Texas officials in a March letter. ”Even assuming the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card … and that disparity is statistically significant.”
Holder defended the department’s numerous challenges to voter identification laws in states like Texas, Florida and South Carolina.
“The clear and simple fact is that this work never has been — and never should be — about politics or partisan maneuvering,” the Attorney General said before the League of Women Voters in June. ”This work is about honoring our most basic principles — of inclusion and opportunity, of equal treatment and fair representation.”
A three-judge U.S. District Court panel is slated to hear the case on July 9. The department contends the law violates Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to seek clearance before changing voting laws.