Speed Reads

Voter ID

Federal judge strikes down amended Texas voter ID law as still racially discriminatory

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled that a softened voter ID law Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had signed in June was still too onerous and discriminatory against black and Latino voters, and Texas vowed to appeal the ruling. Texas passed the nation's strictest voter ID law in 2011, allowing registered voters to cast ballots only if they showed a Texas driver's license or ID card, concealed handgun license, U.S. passport, U.S. citizenship certificate, or an election ID certificate. The new law keeps those requirements, but allows people to vote if they present a bill or other document showing name and address and sign an affidavit swearing they had a "reasonable impediment" to getting an approved ID, on penalty of jail.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos said the affidavit's harsh penalties "appear to be efforts at voter intimidation," and said the failure to expand the list of applicable forms of ID amounted to intentional discrimination. Gonzalez Ramos had first struck the voter ID law down in 2011, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that it disproportionately burdened minorities. On Wednesday, she held out the possibility she would once again require Texas to get federal pre-clearance for electoral laws under the Voting Rights Act, making it the first state put back under federal oversight since the Supreme Court significantly weakened the law in 2013.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) called Wednesday's ruling "outrageous" and pointed out that the Justice Department has sided with Texas since President Trump took office, after supporting civil rights groups challenging the law under former President Barack Obama. Senate Bill 5 was passed by the people's representatives and includes all the changes to the Texas voter ID law requested by the 5th Circuit," he wrote. Earlier this month, a separate federal court said that the voting districts Texas Republicans had drawn in 2011 were also racially discriminatory, ordering the state to redraw two gerrymandered districts before the 2018 election.