After likening Texas’ strict voter ID prerequisites to a poll tax deliberately created to suppress minority voter turnout, a federal judge struck it down a month before Election Day, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court also blocked a similar law in Wisconsin.
These twin rulings represent a significant blow to the Republican-supported voter identification rules that have swept the nation and had to be upheld in previous rulings.
“We are extremely heartened by the court’s decision, which affirms our position that the Texas voter identification law unfairly and unnecessarily restricts access to the franchise,”
said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement referring to Texas’s law, which is considered among the harshest in the nation. Approved in 2011, it was also described by the Justice Department as being blatant discrimination.
“We are also pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to allow Wisconsin to implement its own restrictive voter identification law.”
Holder added in the same statement.
The judge responsible for the ruling is U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi on Texas’ Gulf Coast. She is an appointee of President Barack Obama and, during the September trial, she never hinted that she intended on ruling on the Texas law before Election Day. However, her ruling now signifies that approximately 13,6 million registered Texas voters no longer need photo identification to be able to cast a ballot.
According to Gonzales Ramos’ ruling, the current law:
“creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”
The same ruling describes the measure as resembling an unconstitutional poll tax.
Republicans aren’t pleased with the ruling, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has announced that his office will appeal the judge’s decision.
“The Court today effectively ruled that racial discrimination simply cannot spread to the ballot box,”
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said.
In the meantime, in Wisconsin, the court used a one-page order to block the implementation of the state’s voter ID Law. As such, they overturned the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision, which had declared the law constitutional.
Nineteen States currently enforce voter ID laws, however, it’s just the Texas state that attracted unusual attention from attorney general Holder.
“Even after the Voting Rights Act was seriously eroded last year, we vowed to continue enforcing the remaining portions of that statute as aggressively as possible. This ruling is an important vindication of those efforts,”
Holder said in a statement.