Texas Voter ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act, Court Rules

Texas’ 2011 voter identification law – which stipulates the types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls – does not comply with the Voting Rights Act, a federal appeals court ruled. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed previous rulings that the voter ID law violated the federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in elections and instructed the lower court to draw up a remedy. It was the fourth time in nearly four years that a federal court found that the law discriminated against or disproportionately affected black and Hispanic voters.

Texas’ list of acceptable forms of IDs at the polls under this law was the shortest in the nation. Most citizens would have to show a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, or a U.S. citizenship certificate with a photo. Texas lawmakers felt this short list was necessary to prevent voter fraud, but the Fifth Circuit urged that Texas had gone too far in this quest, infringing on upwards of 600,000 Texans’ voting rights who lack such identification.

The appeals court, however, reversed the district court’s ruling that the Legislature had intended to discriminate against certain voters, although some evidence “could support” that discriminatory purpose conclusion upon reconsideration. Texas could appeal once again, but for now the law is still in place and requires substantive retooling procedures to minimize its discriminatory effect. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas has asked all sides to submit proposed remedies by Aug. 5 and has set a hearing for Aug. 17 in hopes of having fixes in place by the November elections.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 60 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.