CORPUS CHRISTI – On April 10, a U.S. district judge ruled that Texas passed its 2011 voter ID law with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.
Civil rights groups are calling the ruling a victory for those who have been fighting the bill for the past several years.
Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said in her decision that plaintiffs’ evidence establishes that discrimination was “at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage” of the bill.
In its analysis, the court focused on how the Texas legislature rejected efforts to soften the “racial impact of SB 14,” such as reducing the costs of obtaining ID or allowing voters to use more forms of ID.
The court noted the “radical departures” that the legislature went through to “rush SB 14 through the legislative process without the usual committee analysis, debate, and substantive consideration of amendments.”
The ruling comes one week after Judge Ramos determined that a bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature had no bearing on whether or not the state purposefully discriminated when enacting SB 14.
She also granted the Department of Justice’s request to withdraw its intent claim after years of arguing, alongside civil rights groups, that the law was enacted with a discriminatory purpose.
The DOJ had made initial moves to switch sides on Inauguration Day, and filed to withdraw its support shortly before a February 28 hearing on the intent of the law.
Plaintiffs, including the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches (Texas NAACP) and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) challenged the law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that Texas’s strict ID requirement both has the effect of discriminating against minority voters and that the legislature passed the law with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race.
Their claims were consolidated with those brought by other groups of plaintiffs, including the United States, and the case is now known as Veasey v. Abbott.
“This marks the fifth time that a court has found Texas's voter ID law to have been adopted with a discriminatory purpose or effect on minority voters,” said Kristen Clarke, president executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“Today's decision comes on the heels of the Justice Department’s unfortunate decision to abandon the intent claim at a critical moment in the litigation. The court's decision makes clear that Texas’s voter ID law stands as one of the most discriminatory voter suppression measures in the country, and should issue the death knell for burdensome voter ID requirements in Texas and across the country.”