US court strikes down ‘dis­crim­i­na­tory’ Texas voter ID law


A U.S. fed­eral ap­peals court struck down Texas’ voter ID law on Wed­nes­day in a vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion took the un­usual step of bring­ing the weight of the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment to fight a wave of new bal­lot-box re­stric­tions passed in con­ser­va­tive state­houses.

The 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals ruled that the 2011 Texas law car­ries a “dis­crim­i­na­tory ef­fect” and vi­o­lates the fed­eral Vot­ing Rights Act — a de­ci­sion handed down on the eve of the 50th an­niver­sary of the land­mark civil rights law, which pro- tects the vot­ing rights of mi­nori­ties.

Other Repub­li­can- con­trolled states, in­clud­ing Wis­con­sin and North Carolina, have passed sim­i­lar voter ID mea­sures in re­cent years, but the Texas law signed by thenGov. Rick Perry is widely viewed as one of the tough­est. It re­quires one of seven forms of ap­proved iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, a list that in­cluded con­cealed carry li­censes for guns but not a stu­dent’s univer­sity ID. Op­po­nents say the laws weaken mi­nori­ties’ vot­ing rights and power.

Texas was al­lowed to use the voter ID law dur­ing the 2014 elec­tions, thereby re­quir­ing an es­ti­mated 13.6 mil­lion reg­is­tered Texas vot­ers to have a photo ID to cast a bal­lot.

Although a vic­tory for Democrats and mi­nor­ity rights groups, the de­ci­sion wasn’t as sweep­ing as a rul­ing last year by lower court that com­pared the Texas law to old poll taxes that forced mi­nori­ties to pay to vote. The New Or­leans court dis­agreed that the law is a poll tax in send­ing the mea­sure back to a lower court.

“To­day’s rul­ing is a vic­tory for ev­ery Texas voter. Once again, the rule of law agrees with Democrats. The Repub­li­can voter ID law is dis­crim­i­na­tory,” Texas Demo­cratic Party Chair­man Gilberto Hinojosa said in a state­ment.

Texas Repub­li­can Gov. Greg Ab­bott sig­naled that the rul­ing wouldn’t de­ter the state from fight­ing to keep the mea­sures in place.

“In light of on­go­ing voter fraud, it is im­per­a­tive that Texas has a voter ID law that pre­vents cheat­ing at the bal­lot box,” Ab­bott said. “Texas will con­tinue to fight for its voter ID re­quire­ment to en­sure the in­tegrity of elec­tions in the Lone Star State.”

Repub­li­can Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton did not im­me­di­ately com­ment on the rul­ing.

Democrats and mi­nor­ity rights ad­vo­cates had early suc­cess in block­ing the law. How­ever, af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Vot­ing Rights Act in 2013, the path was cleared for Texas to en­force the new re­stric­tions that sup­port­ers say pre­vent voter fraud.

Sec­tion 5, one of the parts of the act that was struck down, had forced cer­tain state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments — in­clud­ing Texas — to get pre-clear­ance from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment be­fore chang­ing vot­ing laws to en­sure they were free of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

With­out that pro­vi­sion to rely on, op­po­nents of the voter ID law had to meet the higher thresh­old un­der Sec­tion 2 of the Vot­ing Rights Act of prov­ing the law dis­crim­i­nated against mi­nor­ity vot­ers.

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