As many as 600,000 registered voters in the state of Texas will now be able to cast their vote in November without any barriers.
A federal district court struck down a 2011 voter ID law passed by a Republican majority in the state that would have overwhelmingly disenfranchised minorities.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling comes after a string of recent court decisions rolling back voting restrictions in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
“The terms of the interim remedy order will help address the discriminatory effect of Texas’s law — the most stringent voter-identification law in the country — as voters go to the polls this November,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project. “Texas must now do everything possible to educate voters and to train election officers to ensure full access to the polls during the general election cycle.”
Across the board, courts nationwide have ruled that states passed restrictive laws precisely to exclude certain voters, including minorities, students and the elderly.
“No American should ever lose the right to vote because they don’t have a photo ID,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “This agreement in Texas and other decisions nationwide mark a meaningful turning point.
“As we approach this November’s elections, courts are stepping in to block discriminatory laws that prevent certain people from participating,” Pérez said. “Today is a tremendous victory for our democracy and our country, with real benefits that will be felt by Texas voters this fall.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the ruling “unfortunate.”
“It is imperative that the State government safeguards our elections and ensures the integrity of our democratic process,” Paxton said. “Preventing voter fraud is essential to accurately reflecting the will of Texas voters during elections.”
The original Texas law required voters to show one of a few government-issued photo IDs to vote, such as a state-issued driver’s license, a passport or concealed carry license.
Now with the circuit court ruling, any voter without these forms of photo ID can sign a declaration that they have a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining one, show an alternative form of identification and cast a regular ballot.
Many additional forms of ID are acceptable under the alternative, including a voter registration certificate, driver’s license or personal ID card from any state regardless of expiration date, utility bill, government check, paycheck or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address.
Voters who have one of the acceptable photo IDs must still show them to cast a ballot.
Although voting rights advocates have successes to celebrate, there are 15 states that will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time this year in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements and early-voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.
The conversation of the “attack” on voting rights began after the 2010 election when states nationwide introduced laws making it harder to vote.
In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that further enabled those laws to stand.
The key provision taken away was Section 5, which gave the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination.
Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered areas must be “pre-cleared” by federal authorities.
“Fixing the law required changing it to such an extent as to render it ineffective,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “Unfortunately, it took three years and millions of taxpayer dollars to spoil this cheap ploy to disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters.
“We cannot rely on the courts to protect our voting rights or trust that the campaign to disenfranchise Texas minorities has ended — too much damage has already been done,” Fischer said. “Instead, we must make ourselves heard at the ballot box and use our collective voice to call for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act.”