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Victory for Texas Voters: Restrictive Voter ID Law Rejected by Federal Court

Voting rights advocates scored a clear victory today when a federal court rejected Texas’s restrictive voter ID law, which could have hurt hundreds of thousands of minority voters who lack the required ID.

August 30, 2012

Law Could Have Hurt Hundreds of Thou­sands of Minor­ity Voters Without ID


Erik Opsal

Bren­nan Center for Justice


Stacie Royster

Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law



Derek Turner

NAACP Office of General Coun­sel



Emmanuel Garcia




Beth Huff­man

Dech­ert LLP



Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – Voting rights advoc­ates scored a clear victory today when a federal court rejec­ted Texas’s restrict­ive voter ID law, which could have hurt hundreds of thou­sands of minor­ity voters who lack the required ID.

In 2011, a wave of suppress­ive laws passed that could make it signi­fic­antly harder for millions of eligible Amer­ic­ans to cast ballots this fall. The Texas decision marks the first time a federal court has blocked a restrict­ive voter ID law, and the second time this week that Texas has been found to have viol­ated the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Texas State Confer­ence of the NAACP and the Mexican Amer­ican Legis­lat­ive Caucus of the Texas House of Repres­ent­at­ives (MALC), along with the Justice Depart­ment and others, presen­ted evid­ence show­ing the law would make it unne­ces­sar­ily hard to vote — poten­tially disen­fran­chising hundreds of thou­sands of minor­ity voters at a greater rate than the white elect­or­ate. The federal court agreed, find­ing Texas’s law viol­ates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This means Texas cannot enforce its photo ID law for the 2012 elec­tion in Novem­ber.

“[U]ncon­tested record evid­ence conclus­ively shows that the impli­cit costs of obtain­ing SB 14-qual­i­fy­ing ID will fall most heav­ily on the poor and that a dispro­por­tion­ately high percent­age of African Amer­ic­ans and Hispan­ics in Texas live in poverty,” the court wrote in its opin­ion. “We there­fore conclude that SB 14 is likely to lead to ‘ret­ro­gres­sion in the posi­tion of racial minor­it­ies with respect to their effect­ive exer­cise of the elect­oral fran­chise.’”

“This again is bipar­tisan vindic­a­tion of what we have been saying in Texas all along — that there is a contin­ued need for Section 5 and Voting Rights Act applic­a­tion to the state of Texas,” stated Gary Bled­soe, pres­id­ent of the NAACP Texas State Confer­ence. “The law was so broad and unreas­on­able that clearly its goal was to suppress minor­ity votes and thereby change the nature of the Texas elect­or­ate. It is sad that things like this continue to occur instead of indi­vidu­als seek­ing vindic­a­tion of their posi­tions by parti­cip­at­ing in our Demo­cracy and present­ing their posi­tions in a market­place for ideas.”

“Today, the court affirmed that Texas’s photo iden­ti­fic­a­tion law viol­ates the Voting Rights Act; this law posed a direct threat to the right of every Texan to vote. It would have muffled the voice of those that need govern­ment’s ear the most — Lati­nos, African Amer­ic­ans, the poor, and the elderly,” said Repres­ent­at­ive Trey Martinez Fisc­her, Chair­man of MALC. “The Declar­a­tion of Inde­pend­ence says that all men are created equal. Citizens have the respons­ib­il­ity to vote and parti­cip­ate in our demo­cracy, but restrict­ive voting laws like Texas’s deny them that oppor­tun­ity. Today is a victory for all Texans and the Voting Rights Act.” 

“As the lead­ing demo­cracy in the world, our voting system should be free, fair, and access­ible to all eligible Amer­ic­ans,” said Wendy Weiser, Director of the Demo­cracy Program at the Bren­nan Center. “We are pleased the court agrees with this funda­mental prin­ciple. Our nation’s founders fought for the right to vote because they knew the Amer­ican people must have a say in govern­ment to protect their freedoms.”

“This clear victory affirms how vital Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is in protect­ing minor­ity voting rights,” said Bob Kengle, co-director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It’s import­ant to protect the integ­rity of our elec­tions and stop voter fraud, but we should not be making it harder for millions of eligible Amer­ic­ans, includ­ing seni­ors and minor­it­ies, to parti­cip­ate in our demo­cracy. Clearly the court agrees.”

“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.”

Texas has claimed that a the portion of the Voting Rights Act that controls this case is uncon­sti­tu­tional, and that part of the case will be litig­ated in the coming weeks.

Texas’s voter ID law is just one in a wave of restrict­ive voting meas­ures that states adop­ted in 2011. See the Lawyers’ Commit­tee’s “Map of Shame” display­ing the states that enacted these restrict­ive voting meas­ures, and the Bren­nan Center’s report Voting Law Changes in 2012.

The attor­neys repres­ent­ing the Texas NAACP and MALC in the case are Dech­ert LLP, the Bren­nan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP office of General Coun­sel, and the Law Office of Jose Garza.