Texas' rigid voter identification law was determined to be discriminatory by a federal appeals panel on Wednesday (August 5). The identification law is one of the strictest in the country and requires voters to bring government-issued photo identification to the polls in order to vote.
Acceptable forms of identification include driver's licenses, U.S. passports, and concealed handgun permits. Many people living in poverty and other minorities lack easy access to these types of identifications. Student ID cards and voter registration cards are not permissible forms of identification, leaving many Texans without the required ID and unable to vote.
In 2014, a Texas federal district court ruled the law as discriminatory. The 147-page opinion was released after the trial, authored by judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, called the identification provision of the law an "unconstitutional burden on the right to vote." She highlighted the fact that there was virtually no evidence of voter fraud and focused on the nearly 600,000 Texans, mostly poor, black, and Hispanic, who would be, in essence, deprived the right to vote under the law.
The federal district court also said that the laws were adapted with the intent of discriminating against minority voters. This statement could have reinstated federal intervention in discriminatory voter laws in Texas. Unfortunately, although the three-judge appeals panel agreed the law was indeed discriminatory, they ordered the lower court to re-think its conclusion that the effect from the obviously-discriminatory laws was intentional.
Rather than overturn the law, the court recommended that the state consider alternate forms of photo identification that may be easier to obtain.
Still, civil rights advocates are focusing on the positive aspects of the ruling. Director of the democracy program at New York University School of Law Wendy R. Weiser said the ruling was "great news for voters in Texas and for the country," and that the court's decision "does show the continuing relevance of the Voting Rights Act even in its weakened form."