The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a controversial voter ID law in Texas violates the Voting Rights Act, marking a significant victory for advocates who have fought the law for years, the Texas Tribune reported.
"The full court's ruling delivered the strongest blow yet to what is widely viewed as the nation’s strictest voter ID law," the paper wrote.
In 2011, the state passed a law that required voters to present one of seven accepted forms of identification when voting. Texas-issued driver's licenses, Texas concealed handgun permits, or passports were included.
However, student IDs, driver's licenses issued by other states, expired licenses, and other forms of ID were not acceptable under the law.
Opponents of the law, including the Department of Justice, argued that hundreds of thousands of voters stood to be affected because they didn't have accepted forms of ID. More often than not, these consisted of Latinos and black people.
An analysis by the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which jointly brought the lawsuit against the state, found that registered African-American voters were 305% more likely not to have an accepted form of ID, while registered Latino voters were 195% more likely.
The case centered on whether Texas intentionally discriminated against Hispanic and African-American voters when it passed the legislation, Senate Bill 14.
Last year, Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, defended the law in an email to Fusion.
"Safeguarding the integrity of our elections process is a top priority of [Texas Attorney] General Ken Paxton’s administration and is essential to preserving our democracy through preventing voter fraud and promoting voter confidence,” she wrote. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld a similar voter ID law in Indiana (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board), which the district court defied when it erroneously invalidated Texas’ law. We will continue to uphold the will of Texans and defend the state’s voter ID law.”
The office issued a statement after today's ruling, calling it "unfortunate."
The restrictive Texas law is broadly seen as likely to reach the Supreme Court. In 2013, the Court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, the same statute the appeals court found the Texas law to have violated.
Before the midterm elections in 2014, opponents of the law asked the Supreme Court to put a temporary block on the law, citing its disproportionate impact on minority voters for the election. The court declined, but several justices wrote a dissent.
"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters," wrote Justice Ginsburg.
The case will likely be back on Ginsburg's desk soon.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.