BATON ROUGE, La. -- A new state law requiring voters show picture IDs with an address and signature will "harm black voters throughout the state," the chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus says.
Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, wants want the U.S. Department of Justice to object to the law. If it does, the mandate wouldn't stand.
The new law was among the changes to Louisiana voting procedures passed this year. While most voter identification procedures were not touched -- voters still must show an ID card or sign an affidavit affirming their identities at the polls -- the new law limits the type of identification card allowed to those with a voter's name, address and signature. Previously, a voter was allowed to show "other generally recognized picture identification."
LaFonta argues the new law -- which passed the state House and Senate unanimously as part of an omnibus election bill -- will discriminate against Black voters.
"In our state, Black voters are more likely than White voters to present identification that falls in the 'generally recognized' category than White voters," he wrote in a letter to the chief of the Justice Department's voting section. "Black voters historically present cards ranging from employer-issued identification, organizational cards to merchants' cards from places such as Sam's Club."
A spokeswoman for the department's voting section Justice may object to any new plans in Louisiana and some other Southern states if they show a disparate affect on minority communities. Justice has 60 days to approve or reject changes once they are submitted to the agency.
State Elections Commissioner Angie LaPlace said the change was discussed publicly for months before the legislative session and was part of the election bill from the time it was filed in April.
But LaFonta said the elections bill was supposed to contain "relatively small and informal changes to law."
"Thus, caucus members, among others, were shocked to learn that Act 240 represents a significant departure to the way that voters identify themselves at the polls," he said.