NOW with Alex Wagner | July 10, 2012
>>> under the proposed law , concealed hand gun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo i.d. but student i.d.s would not. many of those without i.d.s would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. we call those poll taxes .
>> that was attorney general eric holder speaking moments ago at the naacp conference in houston, using strong language to criticize texas ' voter i.d. law. this comment comes as the justice department is battling the lone star state in court over that measure, arguing that it has the potential to disenfranchise 1.4 million voters, the majority of whom are black and hispanic. ari, you have been tenaciously covering this story. talk to us about this case, how you think it will play out in federal court .
>> it's very significant because number one, it's the first time that a federal court has looked at one of these restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election to see if they violate the voting rights act . i thisnk the facts are not on texas ' side. they are going to lose. their law will not be cleared by the court in d.c. because it does discriminate against minority voters. and the second thing which is the big picture here is texas really embodies the conservative response to demographic change which is that it is a state with booming demographic change, 8% of the growth in the last decade has been from hispanics and blacks and the conservative response in texas has been dilute the minority voting power. so basically don't try to --
>> under the auspices of voter fraud .
>> don't try to court blacks and hispanics, just try to prevent them from participating in the political process and draw your congressional and state legislative districts in such a way that white republicans hold on to power for the next decade and beyond. i really do think other states are looking at what texas is doing and trying to copy it going forward. so what the courts say about texas is redistricting map and their voter i.d. map will be very important going forward for the future of the voting rights act .
>> we know that 17 states in the country have enacted strict or nonstrict voter i.d. laws. the laws are in effect in 11 states. it is really interesting to me when we debate this, again, supporters of voter i.d. laws say this is to prevent voter fraud . i think there was five complaints of voter impersonation in texas from 2008 to 2010 .
>> that's why it's such evil genius . focus on the genius as well as evil. it's a problem that doesn't exist that this massive set of new laws is being created to fix and it sounds reasonable. oh, yeah, you should have an i.d. but of course, its effect and it seems its intended effect is to do just --
>> its absolutely intended effect. we spent yesterday, those of us doing cable news, sort of laughing, sort of shrieking about the lady in the range rover who talked about the common people not understanding and ticked off the college kids , the babysitters and the nail ladies. now, that they shouldn't be able to vote, she basically said that, because they don't understand, they are less educated. these laws are basically putting that woman's philosophy of life into law. those people should not be able to vote, they don't understand.
>> well, i want to play a vintage clip of mitt romney , december 27th in new hampshire, talking about south carolina 's voter i.d. law which is being blocked of course by the justice department . let's take a listen.
>> the idea that people should not be able to be identified as they vote so we can know they're not voting multiple times, and that's the purpose here of course. we don't want people voting multiple times. and you can get a photo i.d. free from your state, if you get it at the time you register to vote, people can get photo i.d.s. is there anyone here 18 or older that does not have a photo i.d. ? that's what i thought. all right. this is not like we're all without photo i.d.s.
>> literally canvassing the room. anybody that doesn't have a photo i.d. ? no. no problem.
>> the audience poll of republicans. the quote to me that sums it up, i think it was a week or two ago, the state house leader in pennsylvania, they passed voter i.d. in pennsylvania and he said at a state republican conference, this will enable governor romney to carry the state of pennsylvania . he bragged about it. he put it out there.
>> isn't that a significant part of the libertarian right who doesn't like having to carry photo i.d.s around and having the government get in your life in that way? isn't there --
>> there has been some push-back in more libertarian western states haven't adopted these i.d.s like they have been adopted in the south and parts of the midwest and east coast . romney is so wrong because we are starting to see concrete evidence that 1.4 million in texas , 754,000 --
>> 11% of the population do not have government issued photo i.d.s.
>> this is a huge number of people. these numbers are larger than the margin of victory in the 2004 presidential elections. this could swing the election. i have been saying over and over this is the sleeper issue that could decide the 2012 election. it's not just that people don't have the i.d.s, they're not able if they don't have them to get them because they either don't have the documentation needed to get the i.d. or in texas , there's 81 of 254 counties have dmvs. if you don't have a driver's license, how are you supposed to get the i.d.? you might have to travel up to 170 miles just to be able to get that i.d. needed to vote. it's insane we are making it so difficult for people to do the most basic thing in a democracy which is to be able to vote in the next election.
>> of course we're not talking about the other efforts that conservatives are making to cut back on early voting , voter registration drives. this is a broader portfolio of disenfranchisement. i think eric holder 's comments about this being a poll tax and using language that means a lot is very, very loaded language for this country given our history, our civil rights history is important. it will be very interesting to see what mitt romney says to that room of naacp