Republicans’ Photo Voter ID Law Struck Down By Courts As “Unconstitutional Poll Tax”

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Huge news tonight — a U.S. District Court has blocked Texas’s photo voter ID law from going into effect, citing a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the law violates the Constitution by denying minority voters an equal opportunity to vote in Texas, and found that Republicans adopted the restrictive law with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.

The law, passed by Republicans in 2011, went into effect for the 2013 election cycle. It had been widely expected to disenfranchise tens if not hundreds of thousands of voters who lack the necessary and limited forms of allowable photo ID. Previously, all voters were able to vote with their voter registration card.

Ironically, both Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott were forced to sign an affidavit when they voted since the names on their photo IDs did not exactly match the names on their voter records. It was Wendy Davis who passed the amendment allowing those affidavits, naturally.

As the Lone Star Project was quick to point out, the ruling is another blow to Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has spent millions in taxpayer dollars defending discriminatory voting and redistricting laws.

The ruling pulls no punches about this law:

    The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released the following statement on the ruling:

Today is a victory for all Texas voters. This ruling affirms what Democrats have known all along, the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature deliberately passed a voter/photo ID law to disenfranchise Texas voters based on race. Texas has a long history of voter discrimination. This ruling is a step in the right direction to ensure that all Texas voters have an equal voice at the ballot box.

Meanwhile, Wendy Davis was quick to call on Abbott to surrender to the will of the Constitution on this issue:

This is great news for democracy. I call on Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his defense of a law that a court has now called a ‘poll tax’ and ‘discriminatory’ against African-Americans and Hispanics.

The optics of Abbott appealing the ruling would be particularly troubling with early voting beginning in less than two weeks. Abbott has publicly stated his goal of winning 40% of Hispanics — it’s unclear if he can manage that while actively defending a law that would prevent a significant portion of minority Texans — from voting.

For right now, though, the ruling is a victory for minorities, students, young people, rural voters, and the estimated hundreds of thousands of Texas voters who lacked the specific photo ID Republicans want to require them to use when they vote.

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

1 Comment

  1. I guess what confuses me is why it is any more difficult for a minority person to obtain ID than for anybody else. See, i was born in another state. My parents divorced when I was 8. My mom remarried and my stepfather adopted me, changing my last name to his. Then I moved to Texas and got married, changing my last name AGAIN. I was still able to get my hands on proper paperwork to get a TX Driver’s License. So why is it any harder for minorities? Especially those who’ve lived in Texas all their lives?

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