A law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo identification card at the voting booth is not a poll tax but does have a discriminatory effect, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held in an Aug. 5 decision.
Justices found the law has a discriminatory effect in violation of the Voting Rights Act, but tasked a lower court to reexamine the issue of whether the law was passed with a discriminatory purpose.
“In light of ongoing voter fraud, it is imperative that Texas has a voter ID law that prevents cheating at the ballot box,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement. “Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State.”
Senate Bill 14, signed into law in 2011, requires voters to show an approved form of identification before casting a ballot. If a voter shows up empty handed, 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.
Civil rights activist successfully argued before a district court that SB 14 was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and is a poll tax.
The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment that SB 14 was passed with a racially discriminatory purpose but remanded the case for further consideration on the issue, the opinion states.
Justices also vacated the district court’s holding that SB 14 is poll tax under the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments, rendering judgment in favor of the state.
“Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement.
“I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters.”
The law has been under heavy scrutiny by federal figures and activists since its passage.
On Aug. 30, 2012, 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.
Case No. 14-41127