Published: Fri, August 25, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Judge rules Texas voter ID law still too restrictive

Judge rules Texas voter ID law still too restrictive

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos permanently enjoined Senate Bill 5, finding that it ameliorates but does not do away with provisions that made its predecessor, Senate Bill 14, the most restrictive voter ID law in the United States.

A federal court judge in Texas struck down the state's voter ID law on Wednesday, ruling it had a discriminatory intent and effect against Hispanic and black voters.

"Today's ruling is outrageous", Paxton said in a statement. In response, GOP lawmakers passed another voting restriction bill, SB 5, designed to address what the previous ruling found as unconstitutional by creating an option for voters who say that can not "reasonably" obtain one of the seven forms out identification outlined in the Texas voter ID bill. "The US Department of Justice is satisfied that the amended voter ID law has no discriminatory goal or effect. Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy", Paxton said. The stakes are particularly high for Texas: As a result of previous court rulings, the state could be forced to undergo federal oversight of its election procedures.

Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has previously found the law, known as Senate Bill 14, was enacted with the goal of discriminating against minority voters. It required voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license or passport.

Voting rights groups and Democrats welcomed Ramos' ruling.

Gonzales Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama, has proven to be an insurmountable obstacle in Texas' quest to get court approval of its voter ID laws.

According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, as of June 2016, Texas had spent at least $3.5 million dollars defending this racially discriminatory law.

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Judge Ramos not only tossed out the revamped voter ID law, but also struck down the original version, known as Senate Bill 14.

"While the (declaration) requires only a signature and other presumably available means of identification, the history of voter intimidation counsels against accepting SB 5's solution as an appropriate or complete remedy", Ramos writes in her decision to issue permanent injunctions against both measures.

Ramos' ruling was the second time she had found the law intentionally discriminated against minorities.

Under the recently passed Senate Bill 5, a registered voter who lacks a required photo ID can cast a ballot after showing documents that list a name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.

Texas has vowed to take the voter ID case to the Supreme Court.

The blow comes just one week after a panel of federal judges in San Antonio found two of Texas's congressional voting districts violate the Voting Rights Act because they were illegally gerrymandered based on race. Texas still excludes state government IDs and student IDs, for example, which have been accepted in other states with voter ID laws.

The ruling has the potential of putting Texas back under restrictions of the Voting Rights Act.

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