Federal Court Rejects Texas Voter ID Law

A federal three-judge panel has struck down Texas’ restrictive voter ID law, finding it would suppress minority voting. The Department of Justice blocked the measure after it failed to get the pre-clearance required under the Voting Rights Act for states with a history of discrimination. The DOJ concluded that Latino voters would be disproportionately affected by the ID law.

Now, Judges Rosemary Collyer (a George W. Bush appointee), David Tatel, and Robert Wilkins have agreed, finding that the law “imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and that “a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty.”

Texas’ law is one of the most extreme of the voter ID laws that have become the new fad among Republican lawmakers in the past 2 years. Under its provisions, Texan voters who show up at the polls without ID would not even fill out a provisional ballot ; they would simply be turned away. The law also has a very specific list of allowed IDs. For instance, expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but student IDs and Social Security cards are not.

The court was careful to “emphasize the narrowness of this opinion,” noting it is possible to implement a photo ID law without discriminating against minorities. This leaves open the possibility that Texas could write a less blatantly discriminatory measure before the November election. This is the second Texas election law struck down this week for suppressing minority votes; another panel found the Legislature’s new redistricting map violated minority voting rights.



Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) says Texas will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has also promised to appeal the redistricting decision to the Supreme Court. There are two explicit challenges to the Voting Rights Act already in the Supreme Court docket.