Federal Court Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the United States in striking down a Texas voter ID law. The proposed law would require that all Texans present a form of government-issued photo identification at the polling place on Election Day, a marked difference from current law which permits both photographic and non-photographic ID.

Similar to voter ID in other states, the law provides that Texans who lack proper identification must obtain an alternative certificate at the Department of Public Safety, often at great financial and physical burden.

The case, State of Texas v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., focused on whether or not the proposed Texas law has either the purpose or effect of “denying or abridging the right to vote” on the basis of race, color, or minority status. Texas asked the Court to rule in the negative, but the Court refused, finding that Texas did not adequately prove that its law “lacks both discriminatory purpose and retrogressive effect.” The Court found that the law would adversely affect the voting rights of African-American and Hispanic voters because the law’s burden weighs most heavily on the poor, and a sizable number of these minority voters lack proper ID and are more likely to live in poverty. Read the full ruling.

It is worth noting that Texas bore the burden of proof because, under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas is one of the jurisdictions that must “preclear” any changes to its voting protocol with the United States. In other words, it must show that any change it makes with regard to voting procedure has neither discriminatory purpose nor retrogressive effect on the voting rights of minorities. The Attorney General refused to “preclear” the law; Texas then sought and has now failed to clear its law in federal court.