Federal Court Says Texas Can Use New Voter ID Law For November Elections

Sep 5, 2017

The state of Texas can use its revised voter ID measure for the upcoming November elections, a divided federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. 

The 2-1 decision, first reported by Politico Tuesday night, came from a panel of three federal judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans — and it marks the latest in a series of winding legal battles on whether the state has intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters through its original voter ID law passed in 2011

In August, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos  tossed Senate Bill 5, which the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year and in some ways softened the previous requirements that Texans present one of seven forms of photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Ramos said the state's new voter ID law failed to fix the intentional discrimination against minority voters found in a 2011 ID law.

"Not one of the discriminatory features of [the old law] is fully ameliorated by the terms of SB 5," she wrote. 

Shortly afterward, the Justice Department asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to block that ruling, continuing the Trump administration's dramatic reversal on voting rights.  

SB 5 would allow Texans without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining the proper ID.

In a joint order Tuesday, Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod wrote that Texas "has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," and added that the state has also "made a strong showing that this reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs' alleged harm and thus forecloses plaintiffs' injunctive relief." 

The dissenting judge on the panel, Judge James Graves Jr., said it was still uncertain whether Texas would succeed — and pointed to the court's ruling last year that a North Carolina voter ID law had been propelled by race and was never properly fixed. 

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From The Texas Tribune

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