DALLAS — It's time to do away with the nearly 50-year-old federal rule that let U.S. officials block a new state law requiring Texans to show photo ID to vote.
That's what Republicans candidates running to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate said during a forum Thursday night.
They called for repeal of the Voting Rights Act provision that requires Texas and other Southern states with histories of discrimination to receive pre-clearance when changing election laws.
"Right now, Texas is subjected to different standards than much of the country," former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz said during the forum, hosted by the Dallas Bar Association. "I think we need to be fighting to ensure the law is colorblind and fair to everyone.
"The Department of Justice ... is acting to stop Texas from implementing ... common-sense law."
Other candidates at the forum were Glenn Addison of Magnolia, former ESPN analyst Craig James, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Lela Pittenger of Driftwood.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the front-runner in the race, did not attend, nor did candidates "Doc Joe" Agris of Bellaire, Curt Cleaver of Keller and Ben Gambini of Winnie.
This week, Dewhurst's campaign indicated that he would probably make only one public appearance with the other Senate candidates -- a televised debate next month in Dallas.
That sparked criticism from his opponents. Cruz, who called Dewhurst a "timid career politician," said that Thursday's event was the 28th Senate candidates forum that the lieutenant governor has "skipped."
While the candidates talked about many federal issues including illegal immigration and the debt, voter ID was among the more heated topics.
The Justice Department declared this week that the photo ID requirement passed by the Republican-led Texas Legislature could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Hispanic voters.
President Barack Obama is "trying to hammer the state of Texas into submission," James said. "This administration has Texas in its sights. This isn't about disenfranchising voters.
"We've got to stand firm."
Addison said the Justice Department stated that Texas' voter ID law would violate Hispanics' rights, but he noted that Mexico requires voters to show photo identification to cast votes in national elections.
"They are used to it in the countries they come from," he said. "The federal government is out of control ... putting the heavy foot of a thug government on our neck."
Pittenger said it was long past time to repeal the provision.
"To believe that people are impossible of growth and learning from history and reform is discriminatory," she said. "I think we have to get rid of this discriminatory behavior."
Leppert said that he shows photo identification to use a credit card or board an airplane and that he believes Texans should show their identification to vote.
"Voting is a fundamental core," he said. "We should show our ID, be able to demonstrate our identity. That's the basis of our democracy."
The winner of the GOP primary will face the winner of the Democratic race -- Addie Dainell Allen, Sean Hubbard, former state Rep. Paul Sadler or Grady Yarbrough -- in the November general election.
In the Republican race, Dewhurst, Leppert and Cruz have raised the most money, nearly $20 million combined, according to federal campaign reports.
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