Judge Tosses Out Texas Voter ID Law - Again
A federal judge ripped Texas lawmakers and by extension the Trump administration on Wednesday for continued efforts to stop millions of Texans from voting.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said adjustments by the Texas legislature to the state’s voter identification law did not alter her earlier finding that the law discriminates against minorities. She ordered state officials to stop implementing the law “to prevent ongoing violations of federal law and the recurrence of illegal behavior.”
The ruling was the fifth by a federal court against the voter ID law, which Texas has been fighting to implement since 2011. The state’s Republican leadership also is defending the legislature’s adjustments to the boundaries of Texas’ congressional districts against charges that the lines were drawn to discriminate against minority voters and candidates.
“Texas goes through the courts like a revolving door,” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-TX, complained this morning during an appearance on MSNBC.
Wednesday’s ruling came over the objections of the Justice Department, which under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed its longstanding opposition to the Texas voter ID law.
The law is widely considered the most restrictive in the nation, requiring voters to provide one of several forms of identification to cast a ballot. Critics of the law, including Common Cause, charge that lawmakers chose IDs that are less likely to be available to students and minority voters, who generally favor Democratic candidates.
Approved IDs under the law include permits to carry a concealed firearm; student IDs, including those issued by the University of Texas and other state-supported colleges, are not acceptable.
Until the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas and other southern states – plus a substantial number of local governments across the nation – were required by the federal Voting Rights Act to obtain Justice Department approval before changing their voting laws or regulations. The high court said Congress could re-impose the “preclearance” requirement by adjusting a formula in the law to accurately reflect the recent history of voting rights enforcement in covered states and localities.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act, introduced with bipartisan support in several Congresses since the Shelby County ruling, would set out new criteria for preclearance. It has stalled in House and Senate committees, whose GOP chairmen have refused to hold hearings or bring it to a vote.
Judge Ramos has authority to re-impose the preclearance requirement in Texas, based on the state’s continuing efforts to restrict voting; she has ordered lawyers for the state and voter ID opponents to prepare briefs on whether she should conduct hearings on the issue, the Dallas Morning News reported.