Texas voter identification law to be reviewed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

By Emma Gallimore | Mar 16, 2016

The Texas voter identification law will be reviewed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to assess its constitutionality.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paton applauded the decision.

“Today’s decision is a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s Voter ID laws,” Paton said in a statement last week. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full Fifth Circuit.”

The case, Veasey v Abbott, concerns Senate Bill 14, which requires voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued identification before voting. The seven forms of identification include: A state driver’s license, election identification certificate, personal identification card, license to carry a handgun or a United States military identification card, citizenship certificate or passport.

After the Supreme Court removed the federal oversight requirements from the Voting Rights Act, nothing stood in the way of the law being enacted. However Civil Rights Groups and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block the law.

“As the trial court for the Texas Voter ID case pointed out, it left 600,000 people who are otherwise eligible to vote but couldn’t because they were either unable to get or unable to afford the proper ID and were left out of the democratic process,” Satinder Singh, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas told the Southeast Texas Record.

The last progress on the case was in 2015, when a three judge panel ruled that the state’s voter ID law violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act. However, the ruling was complicated, rejecting some portions of the first ruling and sending other back to the court for review.

“It’s the most restrictive of all the states that passed voter ID state laws,” Singh said.

Thirty-five percent of states have no voter ID laws. Other states have implemented less restrictive voter ID laws.

“For example, letting government officials use government ID’s or letting students use student ID cards, which would be a huge boon,” Singh said.

The Attorney General defends the law as a protection of the voting process. According to a statement released by the Attorney General the state held three statewide elections and multiple local and special elections without disenfranchising any voters.

The ACLU and other civil rights groups contend that the law is not needed.

“There would only be a need if there was an overwhelming problem with in person voter fraud, but there isn’t,” Singh said. “They created a problem and then created a solution.”

Statistics on voter fraud have been difficult to pin down. The Attorney General has said the problem is rampant, but specific numbers have not been released.

“You come up with this sledgehammer to kill a fly and the costs are clearly not worth it,” Singh said. “You end up stranding hundreds of thousands of people out of the democratic process. It’s such a fundamental American right, the ability to say who our leaders are. You leave hundreds of thousands of people out of that process, you make them less American.”

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