Federal judge tosses out Texas' voter ID law, saying "discriminatory purpose" was clear

Source: AP
Source: AP

A federal judge has thrown out Texas' 2011 voter ID law as unconstitutional and motivated by an intent to discriminate against blacks and Latinos, the New York Times reported on Monday, throwing the future of the Republican-backed law into doubt.

According to the Times, United States District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the Southern District of Texas confirmed an earlier ruling sent back to her on appeal. Ramos ruled evidence the law would have a discriminatory effect had repeatedly been confirmed, and did not agree with the appeals court that adequate concerns had been raised regarding whether that discrimination was intentional.

"Because the Fifth Circuit found that some of the evidence in this case was not probative of a discriminatory purpose in the Texas Legislature's enactment of SB 14, this Court was tasked with re-examining its conclusion on the discriminatory purpose issue," Ramos wrote, according to Talking Points Memo. "Upon reconsideration and a re-weighing of the evidence in conformity with the Fifth Circuit's opinion, the Court holds that the evidence found 'infirm' did not tip the scales."

As Talking Points Memo noted, Texas passed the law in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling throwing out key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. That decision allowed Texas to approve changes to its voting laws without "pre-clearance" by the federal government — but if Ramos' decision that the law is discriminatory stands, the state may once again have to seek pre-clearance before passing any other election laws.

Ramos noted the stated rationale of the law, preventing voter fraud, did not match up with observable reality.

In the decade before the law's passage, Ramos wrote, Texas secured just two in-person voter impersonation fraud convictions out of 20 million votes cast, and the state did not demonstrate the "unduly strict" terms of the bill "were necessarily consistent with its alleged interest in preventing voter fraud or increasing confidence in the electoral system."

Republicans across the country have aggressively backed voter ID laws, despite the fact in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in the U.S. and some GOP officials have seemingly admitted they are designed to prevent non-Republicans from voting. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lied that "millions" of undocumented immigrants voted in the 2016 election, despite a complete lack of evidence.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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