Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

Judge again finds discrimination in Texas' voter ID law

Judge again finds discrimination in Texas' voter ID law

The plaintiffs argued [Reuters report] that the law burdened minority voters who are more likely to not carry identification.

As the Associated Press notes, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' ruling comes more than two years after she compared the ballot-box rules (known as SB 14) in Texas to a "poll tax" meant to inhibit minority voters. And Monday, she ruled that the law "was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965".

The law, passed by a Republican-led State Legislature, requires voters to present one of six forms of identification: driver's licenses, military IDs, passports, concealed handgun licenses, personal ID cards issued by the Department of Public Safety and citizenship certificates.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's office could not be reached for comment, but his office is nearly certain to appeal the ruling.

The judge's ruling also sets the stage for a potential penalty for Texas that could have a long-lasting effect. Overshadowed in a big election year for Texas is a big trial coming over how ballots are now cast: under a tough new voter ID law.

Ramos's ruling against the 2011 voter ID law could pave the way for the state to be stripped of its rights to change election laws without federal approval.

Rejected amendments would have allowed additional types of identification, eased voter registration procedures, reduced ID costs and paid for increased voter education on how to comply with the law's restrictions, the judge noted.

Hinojosa said Texans deserve more than "rigged elections" and that his party will continue fighting for a fair election system.

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Though Texas was forced to conduct the 2016 election under relaxed voter ID rules, the state had asked Ramos - who sits on the 5th Circuit - to rethink her conclusion that lawmakers had purposely discriminated.

Said Marc Rylander, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: "We're disappointed and will seek review of this ruling at the appropriate time". While the Fifth Circuit appeals court previous year ruled that Texas' law violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act (a decision the Supremes let stand by refusing to take the case), more tricky has been that question of whether state conservatives intentionally rammed a discriminatory law through the legislature.

"Texas legislators crafted a law they knew would hurt minority voters", Pérez continued, "without any good justification or attempt to ameliorate the harms, and they mangled the legislative process to get it through".

The state's voter ID law is considered to be one of the strictest in the country.

The legislation has been in effect since 2011 despite the legal challenges.

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented some of the plaintiffs, said the ruling on Monday marked the fifth time that a court found that the law had a discriminatory objective or effect. Plaintiffs have contended that the measure is used by Republicans to suppress voters who typically align with Democrats. If a citizen does not have an acceptable form of ID they may sign an affidavit explaining why they aren't able to obtain one of these forms of identification and provide some non-photo documentation like a utility bill.

The U.S. has a long history of discriminatory voting laws.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats and voting rights advocates have applauded the ruling. It sent the case back down to a district court to reconsider that question.

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