A federal appeals court has struck down Texas' voter ID law, ruling that the Republican-backed measure first passed in 2011 violates the Voting Rights Act.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said Wednesday that the Texas law, one of the toughest voter ID measures in the country, violates Section 2 of the landmark civil rights law. The U.S. Justice Department had joined minority groups in a drawn-out legal battle that has stretched for years.
A lower court had previously found that the voter ID was passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature with the intent of discriminating against minorities. But in striking down the law, the appeals court did not find the voter ID requirement to be the equivalent of a poll tax.
The ruling, a narrow victory for critics of the law, prolonged a long-winding legal battle over legislation that some called the strictest in the nation.
The decision sends the case back to a lower court, which will decide whether lawmakers intended to discriminate when they approved the law.
The law requires most citizens (some, like people with disabilities, can be exempt) to show one of a handful of forms of allowable photo identification before their election ballots can be counted. Acceptable forms include a state driver's license or ID card that is not more than 60 days expired at the time of voting, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo. The acceptable list is shorter than any other state’s.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement about the ruling.
“Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect. I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters."
The statement also notes that Texas has held statewide, local and special elections with the Voter ID law in place, with "no disenfranchisement reported."