On Monday, a judge ruled that Texas GOP’s new voter ID law intentionally discriminates against racial minorities in a veiled effort to reduce their electoral power. It is the second time in as many months that a court finds the state’s election laws put at disadvantage minority voters.
Texas Risks Losing an Important Right
In March, a judge ruled that the GOP misrepresented the demographics of several congressional districts when it issued the voting maps in 2011, which is the same year Texas passed the strict voter ID rules.
The rulings cannot undo the laws but they could prompt federal authorities to strip the state of the right to alter its election laws without the feds’ approval. Democrats and minority voters have been seeking to force The Lone Star State to find the federal nod since the nation’s top court got rid of the requirement in 2013.
The judge behind the latest ruling, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, once compared the state’s ballot-box restrictions, also known as SB14, to a “poll tax” intended at suppressing the voice of minority voters. On Monday, she showed she hasn’t changed her view on the issue after a federal court asked her to re-examine her prior decision.
Under the Texas law, voters are required to present a form of identification before they can cast a ballot. Voters have seven options, which include driver’s licenses and concealed handgun permits. College student IDs are not considered a viable form of identification.
In 2016, Texas was forced to ease the rules for the presidential election. Texas lawmakers designed SB 14 as a voter fraud repellent, but the rules were challenged in court over discrimination issues. The state can now appeal the decision that softened the restrictions.
The state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said they were disappointed with the recent ruling. They vowed to review the decision in court “at the appropriate time.”
Ballot-Box Restrictions Softened before November Election
In August, restrictions were lessened to allow voters without a photo ID such as that on a driver’s license sign a sworn statement that they have an impediment to getting a form of identification. Election officials said that the loophole allowed hundreds of voters to dodge one of the nation’s toughest voter ID laws, the Texas law, and vote in the November election without showing a photo ID first.
According to a media report, of the 13,500 sworn statements submitted in Texas, 500 voters cast their ballot without showing a photo ID even though they said they had one.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration said that they would not continue the Obama administration’s policy of challenging Texas voter ID restrictions in the nation’s courts.
The change comes as no surprise as both Donald Trump and the man whose department is supposed to challenge the restrictions, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, backed voter ID laws in the past over voter fraud concerns.
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