Judge: Texas voter ID law was intended to discriminate


Highlights

Federal judge in Corpus Christi said the voter ID law was intended to suppress Hispanic, black voters.

Ruling was the latest court setback for a law passed amid partisan tensions in 2011.

The Texas voter ID law was enacted in 2011 with the intent to discriminate against minority voters, a federal judge ruled Monday, handing the Republican-backed measure another in a string of legal defeats.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos dismissed Republican assertions that the voter identification law was intended to combat fraud, calling that rationale a “pretext” to suppress the voting rights of Hispanics and African-Americans, who overwhelmingly support Democrats.

“There was no substance to the justifications offered for the draconian terms of SB 14,” the Corpus Christi judge said, concluding that the law known as Senate Bill 14 violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

Ramos’ ruling followed a July decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the law had an improper and disproportionate impact on minority voters because they were less likely to have an acceptable government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport or state handgun permit.

The appeals court returned the case to Ramos, who originally declared the law unconstitutional in 2014, to determine whether the voter ID law was intentionally written to be discriminatory.

On Monday, Ramos said it was — a conclusion she had also reached in 2014.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

For example, the judge said, the voter ID law was “unduly strict.”

“Many categories of acceptable photo IDs permitted by other states were omitted from the Texas bill,” she wrote. “Fewer exceptions were made available. … The state did not demonstrate that these features of SB 14 were necessarily consistent with its alleged interest in preventing voter fraud or increasing confidence in the electoral system.”

Texas lawmakers also rejected a number of amendments that would have “softened the racial impact” of the law, said Ramos, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama.

RELATED: U.S. Justice Department drops challenge to Texas voter ID law

Rejected amendments would have allowed additional types of identification, eased voter registration procedures, reduced ID costs and paid for increased voter education on how to comply with the law’s restrictions, the judge noted.

Ramos also said evidence did not support Republican contentions that the voter ID law was intended as a remedy for voter fraud.

“The evidence before the Legislature was that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage,” Ramos wrote. “And the bill did nothing to address mail-in balloting, which is much more vulnerable to fraud.”

In the rush to pass the voter ID bill, legislators resorted to “extraordinary procedural tactics” — moving forward without the usual committee analysis, debate or consideration of amendments, the judge added.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Democrats hailed Monday’s ruling.

“Today’s victory belongs to all Texans, for state-sponsored discrimination undermines the legitimacy of our elections,” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “The Mexican American Legislative Caucus told the Texas Legislature in 2011 that SB 14 would discriminate against Latinos. Republicans shoved it down our throats anyway.”

Said Marc Rylander, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: “We’re disappointed and will seek review of this ruling at the appropriate time.”

In addition to returning the voter ID case to Ramos last summer to determine discriminatory intent, the federal appeals court ordered the judge to establish appropriate identification rules to be used in last November’s general election.

Ramos responded by ordering poll workers to accept a wider range of identification for Texans without a photo ID, including a voter registration certificate, birth certificate, current utility bill, bank statement or government check. Registered voters who presented alternative IDs had to fill out and sign a declaration indicating why they couldn’t acquire a government ID, such as a lack of transportation, disability, illness, work schedule or theft.

The Texas Legislature is currently considering two Republican-drafted bills that seek to adopt many of the loosened rules set by Ramos.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Hutto City Council replaces entire development board amid criticism
Hutto City Council replaces entire development board amid criticism

The Hutto City Council has replaced the entire board of directors for the town’s economic development corporation after the city manager criticized it for lavish spending on hotel rooms. The council on Thursday also approved changing the development group’s structure from a type A to a type B corporation so it can attract a wider variety...
Woman, deputies aid 4 children left in car in Walmart parking lot
Woman, deputies aid 4 children left in car in Walmart parking lot

A Virginia woman and three sheriff’s deputies helped make four children comfortable, providing them with formula and diapers after they were left alone in a car in a Walmart parking lot, WTVR reported. >> Read more trending news Crystal Richards-Jackson said she noticed three Hanover County deputies making multiple trips to a car parked...
Senate panel advances school finance, ‘private school choice’ bills
Senate panel advances school finance, ‘private school choice’ bills

The Senate Education Committee on Friday sent to the full chamber two bills that address many of the major education-related issues on the special session agenda, including school finance and “private school choice.” Senate Bill 2, filed by Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, drew eight hours of public testimony...
Senate health panel approves three abortion bills
Senate health panel approves three abortion bills

The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved five bills Friday, including three that would expand abortion-related regulations. A fourth bill approved by the panel Friday would require that health care facilities like a hospital or hospice ensure that do-not-resuscitate orders are disclosed to patients or their medical decision-makers...
So-called hyper-grandfathering bill pushes against local regulations
So-called hyper-grandfathering bill pushes against local regulations

A bill aimed at protecting property owners’ rights from changing local government regulations could undo years of safety and land use rules and create a building environment in Texas with the potential for bars to pop up in residential neighborhoods, critics say. Some local officials are calling Senate Bill 12 the “hyper-grandfathering&rdquo...
More Stories