A split panel of the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s revised Voter ID law can take effect, reversing a lower court’s ruling that had invalidated it.
“Because the district court’s permanent injunction and order for further relief abused its discretion, we reverse and render,” Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote for the majority.
In August, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that revisions made by the Legislature in 2017 (Senate Bill 5) did not cure the discriminatory effect of the original law (Senate Bill 14, passed in 2011). The revisions incorporated a process by which voters who lacked all required forms of photo identification could still cast ballots after signing a declaration of reasonable impediment.
Jones wrote that the district court erred in finding “any invidious intent behind Senate Bill 14 necessarily carried over and fatally infected Senate Bill 5.” The district court “overlooked” the improvements Senate Bill 5 made “for disadvantaged minority voters and neither sought evidence on nor made any finding that the Texas Legislature in 2017 intentionally discriminated when enacting” the revised Voter ID law. Further, no evidence was offered to show that the interim remedy – the declaration of reasonable impediment – “was insufficient.”
In a dissent, Circuit Judge James Graves said, “a hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.” The Legislature’s revised law “merely carries forward the discriminatory strain of its predecessor, and for that reason it should be quarantined.”
Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton “applauded” the decision. “The court rightly recognized that when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 last session, it complied with every change the 5th Circuit ordered to the original Voter ID law,” Paxton said in a statement. “The revised Voter ID law removes any burden on voters who cannot obtain a photo ID.”
In a statement, Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), the House Democratic caucus chair, said, “Texas Democrats will continue to fight for equal voting rights for all citizens.” In a statement, Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said, “We are undeterred by today’s decision, and we will continue to fight against laws that aim to suppress the vote.”
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