Federal Court Unanimously Strikes Down Texas' Voter ID Law, Calls it Discriminatory
For the second time in three days, a federal court has called a Texas voting measure as discriminatory. Earlier today, a three-judge panel in D.C. issued an opinion striking down the state's voter ID law, passed by the legislature last year.
The law would require voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls (concealed handgun permits are okay, student IDs aren't). Simple, but not quite simple enough. The court found, unanimously, that Texas' law would disproportionately affect minorities in violation of the Voting Rights Act, writing that "everything that Texas has submitted as affirmative evidence is unpersuasive, invalid or both."
"[U]ncontested record evidence," the court continues, "conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining an SB-14 qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
Reaction from both sides was swift. The ACLU and other left-leaning groups issued statements hailing the court's decision.
"This case demonstrates precisely why we still need Section 5 in 2012," said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. "Without the process of federal review it mandates, democracy would have failed the largely minority population who cannot afford to purchase the underlying documents, travel long distances - up to 100 miles in some cases - or take off work to get to the closest government office that issues photo identification."
Attorney General Greg Abbott, of course, disagrees.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld Voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box," he wrote in a prepared statement. "Today's decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana - and were upheld by the Supreme Court. The State will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we are confident we will prevail."
Update at 2:00 p.m.: Rick Perry just issued a statement on the ruling:
"Federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections. The Obama Administration's claim that it's a burden to present a photo ID to vote simply defies common sense."