Texas' voter ID law no longer discriminatory


Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 5 on June 1 and it might go on the books on January 1, 2018. Lawmakers rewrote that voter ID law after several courts, the most senior being the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared the original version to be discriminatory against minority and elderly voters, who are less likely to have photo IDs.

The issue stems from 2011, with the signing of Texas' voter ID law.

The Texas Legislature passed SB14 along party lines in 2011 with Republicans in the majority saying it was needed to crack down on in-person voter fraud.

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on have portrayed SB 5 as a good-faith effort to fix problems multiple federal judges identified in the 2011 law, calling on Ramos to consider the new law a valid remedy - without levying penalties on the state.

She filed the brief for "private plaintiffs", six Texas residents and La Union Del Pueblo Entero Inc., a community-activist group founded by the late worker-rights advocate César Chávez. Critics of the measure pointed to the fact that people could vote if they had a concealed handgun license but not a student ID card.

"At its core, [the law] maintains the same unexplained picking and choosing of "acceptable" photo IDs for in-person voting-accepting IDs disproportionately held by Anglo voters and rejecting IDs disproportionately held by minority voters", challengers of the law said in a brief, The Statesman reported. But that $4 million figure is misleading because it will be spread out over a longer period of time, noted ProPublica's Jessica Huseman, who has written about Texas' failure to educate voters about the law. "We are very concerned that this law will have the effect of intimidating folks who truly have a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID and ultimately prevent them from casting a vote", said Beth Stevens, voting rights director for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in their filing that SB 5 failed to address the underlying discrimination in SB 14, and they asked the court to block its photo ID requirements.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law had a discriminatory effect on minority voters, but remanded the question of discriminatory intent back to a lower court.

The state's Republican-controlled legislature feared that the courts would impose a remedy that could even require Texas to get federal approval for all future voting laws.

SB 5 fails to eliminate either SB 14's racially discriminatory origins or results and, therefore, SB 5 must fall with SB 14.

The Trump administration dropped an Obama-era argument that Texas lawmakers had enacted the law with a discriminatory intent.

The request is out to Georgia's Secretary of State's office.

Republican President Donald Trump in May created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to look into voter fraud, provoking anger among USA civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers, who called it a voter suppression tactic.

The law added one significant change: Voters who lie on the declaration can be prosecuted for a state jail felony, with a maximum of two years in jail. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos will decide whether a challenge to the amended legislation can continue.