Published: Fri, August 25, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Federal Judge Tosses Out Texas Voter ID Law

Federal Judge Tosses Out Texas Voter ID Law

"Now Texas must return to nondiscriminatory ID practices in voting, which do not require photo ID".

Paxton released a statement later that "promised to appeal" the federal judge's decision.

Claiming they were under pressure from constituents to crack down on voter fraud, the Republican-majority Texas Legislature passed SB 14 in 2011 along party lines.

Gonzales Ramos had also thrown out the law, then known as Texas Senate Bill 14, in 2014. SB5 expanded the number of photo IDs people can use by allowing people to vote with IDs that have expired in the last four years rather than just 60 days (plus no expiration for voters over 70, which Gonzales Ramos notes are disproportionately white).

Gonzales Ramos found that SB 5's elimination of the Other box, combined with an increase of the penalty for making a false statement on the declaration to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, were crucial mistakes by the Legislature.

Along with continued provisions that contribute to the discriminatory effects of the photo ID law, SB 5 on its face embodies some of the indicia of discriminatory objective - particularly with respect to the enhancement of the threat of prosecution for perjury regarding a crime unrelated to the stated goal of preventing inperson voter impersonation fraud. But it would let people without such identification vote, so long as they sign an affidavit and bring paperwork, such as a utility bill or paycheck.

On Wednesday, Ramos said Senate Bill 5 was "an improvement" but also said it didn't solve the discrimination issue with the original law.

"It is time for Texas Republican leaders to end shameful efforts to hold power through voter suppression", he said. It required voters to show one of seven forms of approved voter ID at the polls, including a driver's license, a concealed handgun license or a passport.

"SB 5 [the 2017 law] does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify, even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country", she wrote. She did not rule on whether Texas' election laws would be put under federal oversight, but said she would consider the issue during the next phase of the case. Still, Texas keeps trying to adjust the law and push it through.

"It's deeply cynical that the state of Texas would implement laws that knowingly make it more hard for African-American and Latino voters to cast their ballots", he said.

Ramos said the revised law was discriminatory because those who lacked the photo ID required under the original law were subject to different obstacles and procedures, and that imposed disproportionate burdens on blacks and Latinos.

But the Department of Justice withdrew from the case after President Donald Trump appointed former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as USA attorney general, and Sessions was confirmed by the Senate.

Voting rights advocates applauded the decision. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reverse Ramos' decision, he said. "Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy", Paxton said.

Texas has already appealed the redistricting ruling and vowed to appeal the voter ID one. It asked the high court in September 2016 to review the Fifth Circuit's ruling.

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