Federal Court Rejects Voter ID Law in Texas

Leah Barkoukis

8/30/2012 3:49:00 PM - Leah Barkoukis

On Thursday, a federal court in Washington, D.C. ruled against Texas’ voter ID law. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was quick to issue a statement of the State’s intent to appeal the ruling. He criticized the decision as “wrong on the law,” pointing to Georgia and Indiana’s ballot integrity measures that were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Christian Adams at PJ Media points out some of the important legal reasoning behind the decision:  

The seeds of today’s decision were planted in 2006 when Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act. Not only did Congress extend the law, but it changed the substantive requirements to a virtually insurmountable standard for any election integrity measure such as voter ID. In other words, some blame for today’s decision lies more with the Voting Rights Act itself. In 2006, the statute was amended to impose unconstitutional and unrealistic burdens on the states. The revised standard required covered states to prove the absence of “any” discriminatory effect or purpose. Any, of course, means greater than zero.  

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The court made a very deliberate attempt to protect the 2006 reauthorization from attack.  While determining that Texas failed to prove a negative, that there was zero discriminatory effect, the court went further:

Significantly, however, this case does not hinge merely on Texas’s failure to “prove a negative.” See Bossier Parish I, 520 U.S. at 480 (internal quotation marks omitted). To the contrary, record evidence suggests that SB 14, if implemented, would in fact have a retrogressive effect on Hispanic and African American voters.”

This means that even if the 2006 Voting Rights Act reauthorization did not occur, Texas would still fail under the old standards. Texas has promised an appeal to the Supreme Court. The opinion today doesn’t offer any openings for appeal, except a frontal attack on the triggers passed in 1975 that made Texas subject to federal oversight because of language minority populations — namely, Spanish speakers.