The Dallas Morning News
Drive a Stake Through ID Law
Rulings find discrimination against minority voters
Once more, with feeling. Monday afternoon, a federal judge in Corpus Christi ruled, again, that when Texas lawmakers passed the 2011 voter ID bill, they did so because they wanted to make it harder for black and Latino voters to cast ballots.
We’ve been told this grim story before, of course. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had already ruled once that the voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act and had been passed with discriminatory purpose.
Texas appealed both conclusions. When it lost at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last July, it appealed to the Supreme Court and failed to win there, too. In the meantime, the 5th Circuit ordered Ramos to reconsider her ruling that lawmakers had passed the law with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters. The appeals court said there was sufficient evidence to support the judge’s finding but had sent the case back to ensure that she hadn’t relied on evidence that shouldn’t have been included.
Having done so, Ramos ruled Monday that she has come to the same disheartening conclusion: Texas lawmakers acted at least in substantial part based on racist motivations.
We ought to let that sink in a bit. This 2011 bill was a top priority for then-Gov. Rick Perry, who praised its passage, almost entirely along party lines and only after a fierce debate. “This is what democracy is all about,” Perry said. “It’s our duty to ensure that elections are fair, beyond reproach.”
How appalling, then, to have the facts laid out in yet another judicial opinion: Lawmakers, acting as a group, gave in to the worst instincts and put their votes behind a bill that was yet one more attempt to keep the vote out of the hands of black and Latino voters. Those lawmakers — and Perry, for that matter — owe Texans an apology.
For years, Perry and lawmakers have insisted that they had only one goal in mind when they cast their votes six years ago. They say they were merely making sure that the people voting in Texas elections are who they say they are.
In the language of the law, this is called a pretext. We can call it phony.
Ramos explained briefly why the evidence shows that the bill intentionally targeted minorities. Among her reasons: that Texas’ law was so much stricter than other states’ and that Republican lawmakers rejected again and again amendments that might have made it more fair. She ruled that lawmakers’ conduct was simply unexplainable on grounds other than a desire to suppress minority voting.
That’s a scathing judgment, and one that reflects on all of us. Lawmakers are currently working to pass a revised voter ID law, one that they hope will be legal. They’d be better off scrapping it all together.