A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that Texas’ 2011 voter photo ID law, the nation’s strictest, was written and passed by the Texas legislature with the intention of keeping African American and Hispanic voters away from the polls in what is fast becoming a swing state instead of a Republican stronghold.
The law required voters to produce a photo ID card to cast a ballot. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote in her opinion that evidence establishes that discrimination was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage of SB 14 which took effect in 2013. In Judge Ramos’ decision, she focused on how the Texas legislature rejected efforts to soften the “racial impact” of SB14, such as reducing the costs of obtaining ID or allowing voters to use more forms of ID. The law accepts handgun licenses to establish a voter’s identity, but student IDs, military IDs and passports are not accepted forms of identification. The law does allow driver’s licenses as voter IDs.
“Many categories of acceptable photo IDs permitted by other states were omitted from the Texas bill,” Judge Ramos wrote. The Republican-led legislature claims it passed the bill to reduce voter fraud. The Texas Attorney General said Judge Ramos’s decision disappointed him. Plaintiffs, including the Texas State Conference of the NAACP Branches and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives challenged the law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the Texas law has the effect of discriminating against minority voters and that the legislature passed the law with the intent to discriminate based on race, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
This was the fifth time courts have ruled that the law had or was intended to have a discriminatory effect. Some are predicting Texas could become a swing state in 2020 because of its large Hispanic population.