A federal court ruled Wednesday that Texas’ voter identification law violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act prohibition on racial discrimination in elections.
In its 9-6 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the 2011 voter ID law makes it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote, and asked a district court to make changes to the law before the general election in November. “The district court must ensure that any remedy enacted ameliorates [the law’s] discriminatory effect, while respecting the legislature’s stated objective to safeguard the integrity of elections by requiring more secure forms of voter identification,” the court said.
The law, Senate Bill 14, requires voters to present proof of identification, including a state driver’s license or ID card, a U.S. passport, an election ID certificate, a military ID card, a concealed handgun license or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo.
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Proponents said it prevents voter fraud, and noted that Texas makes it easy for voters to acquire ID cards free of charge.
In the ruling, however, Judge Catharina Haynes wrote, “The record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”
Judges who disagreed with the ruling said, “Requiring a voter to verify her identity with a photo ID at the polling place is a reasonable requirement widely supported by Texans of all races and members of the public belonging to both political parties. The majority ruling ‘fans the flames’ of perniciously irresponsible racial name-calling.”
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the court had “wrongly concluded” that the law had a discriminatory effect. “Voter fraud is real, and it undermines the integrity of the election process,” he said in a statement.
The Texas Democratic Party, on the other hand, celebrated the ruling. “The most restrictive and discriminatory Republican voter ID law in country has been struck down,” it said.
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