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Federal Court Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law

A Federal court has ruled against Texas’ controversial Voter ID law. The court ruled that the law violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that Texas’ Voter ID Law has a “racially discriminatory effect.”  

The 200-plus page ruling instructs the lower court to make changes to the 2011 law that will disrupt this year’s election season as little as possible.

Geoffrey Hoffman is the Director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic. He thinks Texas will have a valid voter ID law in place by the November 8 election day.

“I would project that the district court will be able to work with the state of Texas, and be able to fashion some sort of acceptable voter ID law.” Hoffman says. 

Lead plaintiff’s attorney Gerry Herbert told All Things Considered in April that requiring an ID to vote was not the issue. It was the kind of ID’s.

“Texas when it enacted the law picked and chose which ID’s could be used, and each time they rejected an ID they rejected an ID that was disproportionately held by minorities,” Herbert said.

Hoffman agrees. He thinks just being able to obtain a birth certificate is difficult for many minorities: “If you can’t get a birth certificate then that is going to be a road block to a lot of Latinos and other minorities in terms of trying to vote.”

In studying the law, Jim Granato, Director of the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy said the law was confusing registered voters. “People that had the proper ID were confused as to whether they had it, and in close elections, that could matter,” he said.

Ed Espinoza, Executive Director of Progress Texas calls today’s ruling by the 5th Circuit a great ruling.

“We normally don’t see the 5th circuit, especially not in its entirety, go against the Texas legislature, but that should tell you how bad this law is to begin with. Even a conservative leaning court said no way,” says Espinoza.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says, “It’s unfortunate that this common-sense law, providing protections against fraud was not upheld in its entirety.”

Hoffman says it’s important to distinguish the Court’s ruling. “The United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not necessarily rule with respect to whether or not it (Texas Voter ID law) had discriminatory purpose; rather the Court ruled it was a violation of the Voter Rights Act with respect to its discriminatory effect.”

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