In a move that will likely stand as grounds for a lengthy legal battle before the Supreme Court, a three judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down Texas’ new Voter ID law, claiming it unconstitutionally infringes the rights of African Americans and Hispanics.
The panel, led by Judge David S. Tatel, unequivocally tossed out all of Texas’ evidence, declaring it all “unpersuasive, invalid or both” in a 56 page opinion. The Washington Post reports:
Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott said that the state will appeal Thursday’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which is the next stop in a voting rights case.
“Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana — and were upheld by the Supreme Court,” Abbott said in a statement.
Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval or “preclearance” of any voting changes in states that have a history of discrimination. Because of Texas’s discrimination history, the voter ID law signed last year by its Republican governor, Rick Perry, had to be cleared by the Justice Department. The department blocked the law in March, saying it would endanger minority voting rights. Texas sued the department, leading to a week-long trial in July.
Tatel was joined in the Texas decision by U.S. district judges Rosemary Collyer, appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush and Robert L. Wilkins, who was nominated in 2010 by President Obama.
Along with Abbott slamming the decision, True the Vote, a nonpartisan election integrity organization, put out the following statement:
“This is a sad day for a majority of Americans demanding better safeguards against election fraud and irregularity,” True The Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said. “Texas voters deserve the same peace of mind offered to residents of Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas and others when casting their ballot. Holding states to separate standards of law in the 21st Century is counter-productive and disrespectful to America’s tradition of equal protection under the law.”
The case now heads to the Supreme Court, which previously found an Indiana Voter ID law constitutional in 2008. Whether the Court will revisit that decision or reapply it to this case is now anyone’s guess, but given the large degree of reliance on the Voting Rights Act in this decision, that law itself could become a casualty.