Texas voter ID law struck down by federal court

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 4, 2012, 1:32pm

The Texas law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo identification card at the voting booth would keep minorities from the polls, a federal appeals court ruled.

On Aug. 30, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided the Texas law would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” by charging those voters who lack proper documentation fees to obtain election ID cards.

“Chalk up another victory for fraud,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections.”

Senate Bill 14, signed into law last year by Gov. Perry, requires that voters show one of five forms of approved ID including a driver’s license or U.S. passport. If the prospective voter does not have one of the approved types of ID, he or she would have to obtain a free election ID card from the Department of Public Safety. However some fees could be incurred if the voter has to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate, which can cost about $20.

The judges ruled that the fees and cost of traveling to a DPS office disproportionately affects the poor and minorities.

But Perry and other Texas Republicans claim the law was meant to deter voter fraud. The state also argued that factors such as poverty could not legally be considered when determining if a law complies with the Voting Rights Act.

The law was struck down before it had taken effect because Texas and other states with a history of racial discrimination cannot make changes to their voting procedures without first receiving preclearance, a requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Attorney General Eric Holder denied the preclearance of the measure in March, stating that the state failed to show that the law would not deny the right to vote on account of race. He said the requirements amounted to a poll tax.

"Under the proposed law, many of those without the required voter identification would be forced to travel great distances to get one -- and some would have to pay for the documents they might need to do so," said Holder in a statement.

Texas Attorney Greg Abbott has announced his plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld Voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box," he said in a written statement. "Today's decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana - and were upheld by the Supreme Court. The State will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we are confident we will prevail."

The ruling came only two days after another three-judge panel in the same court found that the Texas Legislature had intentionally discriminated against minorities in drawing up its new electoral district maps.

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