Federal judge tosses Texas voter ID law backed by Trump for being discriminatory

  /  08.24.2017

Texas has, once again, failed to defend its restrictive voter ID law in federal court. And it’s not for lack of trying! This is the fifth time since 2011 that Texas has been in court with some version of the law; they’ve spent over $3MM on this quest. Under yesterday’s ruling federal judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos maintained that Texas’s voter identification law, S.B. 5, violated the Constitution and the Voter Rights Act of 1965 because it was rooted in discriminatory intent. The law was backed by Trump and his Department of Justice, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The original law required voters to present an authorized photo ID — driver’s license, passport, military identification, or gun permit — in order to vote. Ramos reiterated her previous rulings on this case that this requirement intentionally discriminated against people of color, who often do not have access to these forms of ID. From an historical perspective, restrictive voter ID laws have been one of the primary means of inhibiting minority factions’ ability to vote.

In finding that this law was based on a previous law with discriminatory intent, Judge Ramos is employing the “tainted fruit” line of legal logic: Since the original law was discriminatory, all of its offshoots and outgrowths also presumptively have discriminatory intent as well.

The judge’s ruling also includes a possible remedy of kicking oversight of Texas’s elections up to the Department of Justice, suggesting that Texas can’t be trusted to keep things non-discriminatory when it comes to voting. The fundamental issue here, though: The DoJ is overseen by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and he is in favor of the law the judge overturned.

If Judge Ramos’s ruling was allowed to stand, it would mean voters would not need to shoe photo ID at their voter precincts. But don’t expect that without further litigation: Texas’s attorney general has already promised an appeal.

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