The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the current voter identification law in Texas, which was enacted in 2011 and is one of the strictest in the country, has had a “discriminatory effect” on minorities, and violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
While there are similar laws in Wisconsin and North Carolina, the voter ID law in Texas is considered to be one of the strictest in the country because it requires one of seven forms of a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a concealed-handgun license or an election identification certificate issued by the State Department of Public Safety. University IDs, voter registration cards and utility bills are not allowed.
“We urge the parties to work cooperatively with the district court to provide a prompt resolution of this matter to avoid election eve uncertainties and emergencies,” wrote the members of the federal Appeal’s Court.
In Oct. 2014, a U.S. district judge blocked Texas’ voter ID law, calling it an “unconstitutional poll tax,” and saying that its purpose was to discriminate against Hispanic and African-American citizens by creating “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.”
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The Texas attorney general’s office appealed the decision, and while the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the strict voter ID law would have a “discriminatory impact” that was in violation of the Voting Rights Act, it did not determine whether Texas legislators had a discriminatory purpose in passing the law.
The members of the appeals court claimed that although they saw “the charged nature of accusations of racism, particularly against a legislative body,” they also recognized the fact that “racism continues to exist in our modern American society despite years of laws designed to eradicate it.”
The Associated Press reported that the when the voter ID was used in Texas during the 2014 midterm elections, it required “an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters to have a photo ID to cast a ballot.”
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In a statement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice is “pleased that the court of appeals agreed unanimously with the district court that the Texas statute violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act” and they are “studying the opinion in light of the future proceedings the court of appeals has ordered.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the ruling a victory for the state, rather than a defeat.
“Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect,” Paxton said. “I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters.”
In a statement from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, he said that the state will continue to fight to uphold its voter ID law.
“In light of ongoing voter fraud, it is imperative that Texas has a voter ID law that prevents cheating at the ballot box,” Abbott said. “Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State.”
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