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Election 2016

Federal Court Rules Texas Strict Voter ID Law Unconstitutional, Orders Changes Before November Election

Texas officials say they were disappointed in the ruling, arguing the law helps prevents fraud.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas’ strict voter id law violates the voting rights act and has ordered changes before the November 8th presidential election.

The ruling was issued Wednesday by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling instructs a lower court to make changes that fix the "discriminatory effect" of the 2011 law in the months leading up to this fall’s election.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

But the ruling said the lower court should make changes that disrupt this year’s election season as little as possible.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi wrote a 147-page opinion finding the law was discriminatory and should be struck down. Texas then filed an appeal.

The Obama administration took the unusual step of deploying the weight of the U.S. Justice Department into the case when it challenged the law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released the following statement on the ruling:

"It is imperative that the State government safeguards our elections and ensures the integrity of our democratic process. Preventing voter fraud is essential to accurately reflecting the will of Texas voters during elections, and it is unfortunate that this common-sense law, providing protections against fraud, was not upheld in its entirety."

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement about the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling:

"I am pleased with today's decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit holding that Texas's 2011 photographic voter identification law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This decision affirms our position that Texas's highly restrictive voter ID law abridges the right to vote on account of race or color and orders appropriate relief before yet another election passes."

The ACLU previously filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Veasey v. Abbott, the case challenging Texas' voter ID law.

Rebecca L. Robertson, the legal and policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas released the following statement:

"We're delighted that the 5th Circuit has determined — once again – that Texas' discriminatory photo voter ID law has the effect of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of minority voters in the Lone Star State while doing precisely nothing to prevent voter fraud. This law was nothing less than a brazen and transparent attempt to keep people of color out of the voting booth. The case now goes back to the district judge to fashion a remedy that will make it easier for qualified Texans to cast their ballots this fall and we're hopeful the result will be more fair."

Under the law, there are seven acceptable forms of government-issued photo IDs:

  • A Texas Driver's license
  • A free Texas election identification certificate (EIC)
  • A Texas personal ID card
  • A Texas license to carry a concealed handgun
  • A U.S. military ID card
  • A U.S. citizenship certificate
  • A U.S. passport

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