A judge in Texas has ruled that Texas’ Voter ID law, originally passed in 2011, intentionally discriminates against minorities seeking to vote and has ruled against the state for a second time on the matter.
Via the AP:
A judge Monday again ruled that Republican lawmakers deliberately designed a strict voter ID law to disadvantage minorities and effectively dampen their growing electoral power.
It amounted to the second finding of intentional discrimination in Texas election laws in as many months — a separate court in March ruled that Republicans racially gerrymandered several congressional districts when drawing voting maps in 2011, the same year the voter ID rules were passed.Neither ruling has any immediate impact. But the decisions are significant because it raises the possibility of Texas being stripped of the right to unilaterally change its election laws without federal approval. Forcing Texas to once again seek federal permission — known as “preclearance” — has been a goal of Democrats and minority rights groups since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the requirement in 2013.
The latest voter ID ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi comes more than two years after she likened the ballot-box rules in Texas, known as SB 14, to a “poll tax” meant to suppress minority voters. On Monday, she reaffirmed that conclusion after an appeals court asked her to go back and re-examine her findings.
The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven forms of identification at the ballot box. That list includes concealed handgun licenses — but not college student IDs — and Texas was forced under court order last year to weaken the law for the November elections.
“Proponents touted SB 14 as a remedy for voter fraud, consistent with efforts of other states. As previously demonstrated, the evidence shows a tenuous relationship between those rationales and the actual terms of the bill,” Gonzales Ramos wrote.
The state could once again appeal, which is what one of the top deputies of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared to suggest would happen while testifying to lawmakers just as the ruling came down. Brantley Starr, a deputy first assistant attorney general, acknowledged that Texas could be dragged back under preclearance but noted there was little precedent.
“It’s possible. It’s our belief that you’d have to have multiple instances of discriminatory purpose,” he said.
Later Monday, Paxton spokesman Marc Rylander remarked, “We’re disappointed and will seek review of this ruling at the appropriate time.”
The Texas law was softened in August to allow people without a driver’s license or other photo ID to sign an affidavit declaring that they have an impediment to obtaining required identification. Republican lawmakers, who have denied they adopted voting laws in 2011 with discriminatory purpose, are now trying to make that flexibility permanent under legislation that Gov. Greg Abbott could sign later this year.[…]
The ruling is blow to Voter ID advocates who tout these laws in order to combat voter fraud. The Texas law required voters to show one of seven types of ID at the polls, including a concealed handgun license.
The ruling is another blow to Texas Republicans, accused by a panel of judges in San Antonio of racially gerrymandering districts in their last redistricting.
Texas is able to appeal Gonzales’ ruling again, but has yet to publicly announce anything.