Court blocks Texas voter IDs – maybe

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a Texas voter ID law, as written, discriminates against blacks and Hispanics and violates a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

However, the Court left the door wide open for a re-written law that might do the same thing.

The Texas voter ID law, passed by the right wing-controlled Texas legislature, states that even though people have an approved voter registration card, in order to vote they must show one of seven approved forms of photo ID: a Texas driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a state-issued ID card, a Texas concealed handgun license or a U.S. military ID. Student identifications, voter registration cards and utility bills are not considered “acceptable.”

It has been conclusively shown that a far greater percentage of poor people and minorities do not have these forms of identification and lack easy access to birth certificates or other documents to obtain them.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which required federal approval for any changes made to voting procedures by states such as Texas that had for years suppressed the rights of minority voters.

In short order, nineteen states passed laws requiring voters to show identification at the polls. Courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, struck down challenges to these new laws.

However, in 2014, Texas District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the Texas Legislature had passed its ID law for the purpose of suppressing the voting rights of poor and minorities and that the law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.”

She cited Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court left in place. It calls for states to provide equal access to voting for all citizens.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the federal appeals court said that although the Texas law as written is, in fact, discriminatory, the intent, as stated by the legislature was to prevent “voter fraud,” not to discriminate. The court ruling implies that a re-written law might be legally sustained.

There is no evidence whatsoever that voter fraud has been a problem in Texas.

In response to the federal appeals court ruling, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said that the appeals court decision is a “victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections.” She added that “our state’s common sense voter ID law remains in effect.”

She was referring to the fact that even after the district court ruled against the Texas ID law, it has remained in force for four statewide elections.

Photo: AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.