A strict voter ID law in Texas does indeed discriminate against Blacks and Latinos, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, saying the law violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, partially upheld a 2014 district court ruling, agreeing that the Texas law made it harder for Blacks and Latinos to vote, but rejected the lower court’s finding that the law amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax.
In 2014, a lower court found that more than 600,000 voters in Texas, disproportionately minorities, did not have the required government-issued form of photo identification required to vote under the Texas law which also accepts handgun licenses as ID but not student IDs.
“This decision affirms our position that Texas’s highly restrictive voter ID law abridges the right to vote on account of race or color and orders appropriate relief before yet another election passes,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The 15-judge panel, known as one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the nation, ruled 9-6 acknowledging the discriminatory nature of the Texas law.
“We acknowledge the charged nature of accusations of racism, particularly against a legislative body, but we must also face the sad truth that racism continues to exist in our modern American society despite years of laws designed to eradicate it,” the court said.
Voter ID laws have been pushed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in other states in what critics say is an effort to make it more difficult for Blacks and Latinos to vote, since those groups tend to support Democrats. Republicans say the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud, though there is little evidence of voter fraud having occurred or having much impact.
The Texas law was one of the strictest voter ID laws in the United States and would have prevented up to 600,000 people from voting in this year’s local, state and federal elections.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Wisconsin on Tuesday softened that state’s law, saying people without a photo ID should be able to vote in November if they agree to sign an affidavit explaining why they could not obtain identification.
A federal appeals court is expected to rule soon on a similar law in North Carolina. A district court judge upheld the measure in April.
Reuters material was used in this report.