Judge again finds discrimination in Texas' voter ID law

by Frankie Norman April 14, 2017, 1:12
Judge again finds discrimination in Texas' voter ID law

On Monday, A judge once more ruled that Republican lawmakers purposefully designed a strict voter ID law to hinder minorities. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos will decide whether the Texas law is a legal safeguard or a discriminatory mandate that suppresses minority turnout. Sign up at Tribune.com for our upcoming newsletter. She made a similar ruling in 2014, married with the ruling that the law had a discriminatory effect.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has yet to announce whether he will appeal Ramos' ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, with Republicans in charge of the state Legislature, Congress and the White House, and the Justice Department coming out in support of voter ID laws, placing Texas under preclearance seems unlikely to result in any meaningful change.

Gonzales Ramos did not, however, explicitly state that her order would force Texas back under federal review, merely writing: "The Court holds that plaintiffs have sustained their burden of proof to show that SB 14 was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965". In march, a separate court ruled that Republicans racially gerrymandered many congressional districts when drawing voting maps in 2011. 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.

The Texas law requires voters to present a state driver's license, personal identification card, concealed handgun license, military identification card, USA passport or citizenship certificate to prove their identity.

They told House lawmakers that they thought legislation now under consideration by the Legislature would appropriately remedy the Fifth Circuit's concerns with the voter ID law.

For years, Democrats have argued the GOP, which has large majorities in the Texas Legislature, passed the law to disenfranchise traditionally Democratic voting blocs.

"This is some evidence of a pattern, unexplainable on grounds other than race, which emerges from the effect of the state action even when the governing legislation appears neutral on its face", the judge wrote.

Republicans also refused to allocate sufficient funds to educate the public about the new voter ID rules and help poor voters obtain IDs.

The panel stopped short of striking down the entire law, however.

SB 14, which passed in 2011, is said to be "the nation's strictest voter photo ID law that leaves more than half a million eligible voters who do not have the requisite types of ID from fully participating in the democratic process".

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

Rick Hasen, professor of law and political Science at University of California Irvine, similarly reasoned that the district court ruling could pave the way for the law's ultimate removal. The department said that the state legislature was considering changing the law in ways that might correct shortcomings.

A discriminatory intent ruling risks Texas being placed under the so-called pre-clearance scheme of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that the state would have to get any changes to its voting protocols cleared by the federal government.

"It's possible. It's our belief that you'd have to have multiple instances of discriminatory goal", Brantley Starr, a deputy first assistant attorney general, said.

The intent finding is a major victory for voting rights advocates because the courts have wide latitude to remedy intentional racial discrimination.

The Texas law requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs such as a state driver's license, a Texas election identification certificate, a USA passport or a military identification card.

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