Judge rules Texas voter ID law still too restrictive

By Danielle Haynes  |  Aug. 23, 2017 at 7:47 PM
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Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Wednesday rejected changes softening Texas' voter identification law saying the alterations don't do enough to make sure black and Latino voters aren't discriminated against.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said Senate Bill 5, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, didn't alleviate the problems the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found in the state's 2011 voter identification law, Senate Bill 14. The appeals court said the older law disproportionately affected minority voters who are less likely than white voters to have one of the seven acceptable forms of identification required at the polls.

Ramos ruled in April that SB14 not only discriminated, it intentionally did so.

"SB 5 does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify, even though the court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country," Ramos wrote Wednesday.

"For instance, Texas still does not permit federal or Texas state government photo IDs -- even those it issues to its own employees. SB 5 permits the use of the free voter registration card mailed to each registered voter and other forms of non-photo ID, but only through the use of a Declaration of Reasonable Impediment," she said. "Because those who lack SB 14 photo ID are subjected to separate voting obstacles and procedures, SB 5's methodology remains discriminatory because it imposes burdens disproportionately on blacks and Latinos."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday issued a statement saying he planned to appeal the ruling.

"Today's ruling is outrageous," he said. "Senate Bill 5 was passed by the people's representatives and includes all the changes to the Texas voter ID law requested by the 5th Circuit."

Paxton noted that though the Department of Justice originally backed groups that thought Texas voting law was too restrictive, it later reversed course when President Donald Trump took office.

"Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy," Paxton said. "The 5th Circuit should reverse the entirety of the district court's ruling."

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