Federal judge strikes down voter ID law

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A federal judge struck down a Texas voter identification law Monday for the second time, saying it intentionally discriminated against minority voters.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos repeated her 2014 arguments that a 2011 voter ID law disproportionately barred African-American and Latino voters from the ballot.

The law, passed by a Republican-led State Legislature, requires voters to present one of six forms of identification: driver’s licenses, military IDs, passports, concealed handgun licenses, personal ID cards issued by the Department of Public Safety and citizenship certificates.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who co-authored the bill, said it would prevent voter fraud, but Ramos said it does not allow a wide range of identification compared to other states with similar laws.

“The terms of the bill were unduly strict,” Ramos wrote in Monday’s ruling. “Many categories of acceptable photo IDs permitted by other states were omitted from the Texas bill.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has yet to announce whether he will appeal Ramos’ ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Paxton said lawmakers are working on a law better suited to survive court scrutiny at a Texas Asian Republican Assembly meeting last Tuesday.

“We are in the middle of passing a voter ID law, hopefully in the next couple months,” Paxton said. “I want to make sure we pass something that works based on what the Legislature
already passed.”

Paxton could appeal Ramos’ ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2014 asked Judge Ramos to reevaluate her assessment of the law’s discriminatory intent.

Law professor Lucas Powe said Texas will likely appeal to the Fifth Circuit and potentially reverse Ramos’ ruling because it is conservative.

Powe said no matter what the Fifth Circuit rules, either losing party will likely appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Powe said he agrees with Ramos’ reasoning because minorities are institutionally economically disadvantaged compared to white voters.

“In the first trial of the case, there was a black woman who needed to get a birth certificate,” Powe said. “She pointed out that she and her kids live on $344 a month on social security disabilities, and she responded ‘You can’t eat a birth certificate.’”

Philosophy professor Daniel Bonevac said in an email Ramos’ arguments were weak and didn’t identify a discriminatory aspect to the law.

“Any ineligible voter who casts a ballot is nullifying the effect of a legitimate voter’s ballot,” Bonevac said. “If groups opposed to voter ID laws spent a small fraction of the money they spend on legal action to help people without photo IDs get them, the problem would be solved.”

Sean Sellers, finance and Plan II senior, said he is against Texas’ law but understands its intent to protect elections.

“(The law is) pretty unnecessary because there is very little proof of widespread voter fraud,” Sellers said. “But I don’t think everybody who is in favor of them is necessarily trying to hurt seniors or minorities who don’t have as much access or historically not as much.”