More Than 1 Million Eligible Texas Voters Do Not Have Photo ID, Minorities More Likely to Lack ID
Corpus Christi, TX – Texas voters scored a clear victory today when a federal court blocked the state’s restrictive photo ID law, ruling it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by effectively denying African Americans and Latinos the same opportunity as white voters to cast a ballot.
The ruling comes as many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November. Texas is one of seven states with a major lawsuit challenging voting restrictions ahead of the 2014 election. Since the 2010 election, new restrictions are slated to be in place in 22 states. With the Texas ID law blocked, 14 states will now have new restrictions in place for the first time this year.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that Texas’s law creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Latinos and African Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.
Texas cannot enforce its photo ID law for the 2014 election in November. The Court ordered Texas to immediately return to enforcing the voter identification requirements for in-person voting in effect immediately prior to the enactment and implementation of the photo ID law.
The Texas NAACP and Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) challenged the Texas law in September 2013. That case and other similar cases were consolidated as Veasey v. Perry. The attorneys representing the Texas NAACP and MALC include Dechert LLP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, PotterBledsoe L.L.P., the Law Offices of Jose Garza, the national office of the NAACP, the Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, and the Covich Law Firm, LLC.
“This decision will eliminate an unnecessary and discriminatory barrier to the ballot box for hundreds of thousands of Texans,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “Elections in Texas will now be more free, fair, and accessible than they were a year ago.”
“We are greatly encouraged by today’s decision,” stated Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and an attorney with PotterBledsoe. “This decision vindicates what African American and Latino leaders have been saying since this law was first proposed, that it discriminates against minority voters and was designed to do just that.”
“Today’s ruling is a victory for all Texans, with the court affirming that Texas’s photo identification law violates the Voting Rights Act,” said Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of MALC. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and this law would have silenced the voice of those that need government’s ear the most — Latinos, African Americans, the poor, and the elderly. Citizens have the duty to vote and participate in our democracy, and restrictive voting laws like Texas’s have no place in the 21st century.”
“This decision helps ensure all Texans will have the opportunity to vote this November and in future elections,” said Ezra D. Rosenberg of Dechert LLP, pro bono counsel for the NAACP Texas State Conference and MALC. “We are privileged to be part of a team that protected the rights of Texas voters.”
“The Texas Legislature was determined to adopt the most restrictive photo identification law in the country, and it rejected repeated opportunities to reduce the law’s negative effects,” said Bob Kengle, co-director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It should come as no surprise that the court found a violation of federal law.”
A federal court in Washington, D.C. blocked Texas’s voter ID law in 2012 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law would make it significantly more difficult for minority citizens in Texas to vote on Election Day. In June 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a separate case) ruled that the formula used in the Act for specifying the states covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional. As a result, Texas is not currently required to comply with the Section 5 pre-clearance provision. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the state would implement the voter ID law.
The Texas NAACP and MALC, among others, presented evidence that the state’s ID requirement would erect discriminatory barriers to voting. At trial, experts testified that 1.2 million eligible Texas voters lack a form of government-issued photo ID that would have been accepted under the new law — and minorities would be hit the hardest. For example, the court credited testimony that African-American registered voters are 305 percent more likely and Hispanic registered voters 195 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack photo ID that can be used to vote.
Brennan Center for Justice
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Potter Bledsoe LLP
Covich Law Firm LLC
Law Office of Robert Notzon
Law Office of Jose Garza