In a victory for Texas voters the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling blocking a restrictive Texas voter ID law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
In October 2014, US District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos issued a 143-page order striking down the Texas voter ID law, which was the strictest in the country and required voters to present one of only six state-approved photo IDs before being able to vote. The controversial list included concealed handgun permits, but not student identification cards. The court found that approximately 608,470 registered voters did not have the kind of photo ID required under the law, and that the law disproportionately discriminated against minority voters. According to Judge Ramos, the law was “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and has an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose [in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.]”
Despite Ramos’ ruling, the Fifth Circuit allowed the discriminatory law to stand for the November 2014 elections while Texas sought an appeal. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court, confusing and disenfranchising many Texas voters.
The 5th Circuit court decision yesterday invalidating the law was praised by Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, saying “This decision acknowledges the problems Texas African American and Latino voters have experienced as cited by their leaders since the law was first implemented, that it blatantly discriminates against minority voters.” Bledsoe also called for the Attorney General not to seek an appeal with the Supreme Court. “There is no need to prolong discriminatory practices that are truly hurting Texans of color,” he said.
Since the 2010 elections, 21 states have implemented new laws making it more difficult to vote, and 15 more will have new rules in place for the upcoming presidential election in 2016. Multiple states are facing major lawsuits challenging restrictions on voting. A North Carolina trial determining the validity of several strict voting laws just wrapped up.
Media Resources: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals 8/5/15; Feminist Newswire 10/20/14; Supreme Court Opinion 10/18/14; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Press Release 8/5/15; Brennan Center for Justice Infographic; 4/16/15