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New Orleans, La. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today, July 20, ruled the Texas voter identification law violates the Voting Rights Act. The court found the 2011 Texas law — viewed by many as the strictest in the nation — discriminates against minorities and must be revised before Election Day.
The U.S. Supreme Court on April 29 gave the Fifth Circuit until July 20 to issue an opinion on the case.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated, “I am pleased with today’s decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit holding that Texas’s 2011 photographic voter identification law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This decision affirms our position that Texas’s highly restrictive voter ID law abridges the right to vote on account of race or color and orders appropriate relief before yet another election passes.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sent the case back to a district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law had a discriminatory purpose. The appeals court asked the district court for a short-term fix to be used in Texas in the November general election.
The 9-6 decision does not nullify the entirety of the law, so voters will still need to show identification at the polls in November. But a lower court will need to create some form of interim relief until it can develop a more comprehensive solution for those who face obstacles to obtaining an ID.
“The record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 (enacted in 2011) were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact,” Judge Catharina Haynes wrote for the majority in the ruling.
“Although the court found some of the arguments made in previous court cases to be legitimate, there remains evidence to support a finding that the cloak of ballot integrity could be hiding a more invidious purpose,” Haynes wrote.
Haynes, 53, from Dallas, Tex., was appointed by George W. Bush in 2008.
To view the full July 20 opinion on various aspects of the case, click veasey_v._abbott_-_fifth_circuit_appeals_court_ruling 7-20-16.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed an amicus brief in Veasey v. Abbott, the case challenging Texas’ voter ID law.
“We’re delighted that the 5th Circuit has determined — once again – that Texas’ discriminatory photo voter ID law has the effect of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of minority voters in the Lone Star State while doing precisely nothing to prevent voter fraud,” stated Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU.
“This law was nothing less than a brazen and transparent attempt to keep people of color out of the voting booth. The case now goes back to the district judge to fashion a remedy that will make it easier for qualified Texans to cast their ballots this fall and we’re hopeful the result will be more fair,” Robertson said.
Challengers of the Texas law have said that up to 600,000 people would be unable to vote if the law was fully in effect.
The Fifth Circuit appeals court consists of 15 judges and considers cases in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Judge Carl R. Stewart of Shreveport is chief justice.