This shouldn’t come as a surprise, Federal Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law Is Discriminatory. This has always been a solution in search of a problem, and more about suppressing certain voters, then preventing in person voter fraud – which doesn’t exist. And now we know the courts agree.
A federal court in Washington D.C. on Thursday rejected a Texas law requiring voters to show certain types of photographic identification in order to cast a ballot. The three-judge panel found that the law imposes “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor,” pointing out that racial minorities are more likely to live in poverty.
“The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that — at least to our knowledge — is the most stringent in the country,” the opinion, embedded below, reads. “That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. And crucially, the Texas legislature defeated several amendments that could have made this a far closer case.”
The best write up I’ve seen so far is from Ari Berman at The Nation, Federal Court: Texas Voter ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act.
On Tuesday, a federal court in Washington found that Texas’s redistricting maps violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.” On Thursday a separate three-judge federal court panel in Washington unanimously found that Texas’s voter ID law also violated Section 5 by discriminating against minority voters.
For background, see my earlier posts “DOJ Blocks Discriminatory Texas Voter ID Law” and “Discriminatory Texas Voter ID Law Challenged in Federal Court.”
Here’s the key section from the court ruling:
Texas bears the burden of proving that nothing in SB 14 “would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.” Because all of Texas’s evidence on retrogression is some combination of invalid, irrelevant, and unreliable, we have little trouble concluding that Texas has failed to carry its burden.
To the contrary, record evidence suggests that SB 14, if implemented, would in fact have a retrogressive effect on Hispanic and African American voters. This conclusion flows from three basic facts: (1) a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID; (2) the burdens associated with obtaining ID will weigh most heavily on the poor; and (3) racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
The court ruling clearly shows how voter ID laws disproportionately harm Hispanic, African-American and low-income voters, who, perhaps not surprisingly, are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. Republicans drafted the voter ID law, just like the redistricting plans, to benefit their party, from passing it as “emergency” legislation at the beginning of the 2011 legislative session to allowing voters to cast a ballot with a concealed weapons permit but not a student ID. (By my count, federal or state courts have blocked new voter suppression laws in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin this year.)
The court also recognized that voting is a precious right in a democracy and is an exercise that is in no way akin to buying Sudafed or boarding a plane. Wrote the judges: “As the Supreme Court has ‘often reiterated…voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.’ Indeed, the right to vote free from racial discrimination is expressly protected by the Constitution.”
After this ruling this seems appropriate, Tarrant County Democratic Party chairman rips GOP after Voter ID ruling.
“Let’s be clear here, folks — two of the top Republican legislative priorities have now been revealed as exactly what they were meant to be by the repressive and backward-thinking Republican leaders of the legislature — nothing more, or less, than the disenfranchisement of an entire class of Texas citizens,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell said.
“Add to that the message behind the evisceration of the Texas Public School system by the elimination of $5.4 billion from the budget, and the meaning is obvious. The Republican legislature was intent on creating an ‘underclass’ — a large segment of the population made up mostly of minority citizens who, thanks to these legislative priorities and others, would no longer have the right to a good education, to quality health care, or even the ability to exercise the fundamental right to vote,” he said.
“Fortunately for Texas, no matter how these laws were dressed up and distorted, the United States Court system saw through the deception and called it exactly what it was — discrimination and disenfranchisement at its very worst. Wake up, Republican voters — you should be ashamed at what the people you elected are doing.”
The good news is that this law will not be in effect for the November 2012 general election.
Two laws passed by the Texas GOP dealing with elections have been struck down as discriminatory in the last week. If that doesn’t get Texans to open their eyes about those who are currently in power in our state then nothing will.