Thursday, August 06, 2015

5th Circuit Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 turned 50 this week and as a gift to those who believe in the right to vote for voting age all citizens the United States Court of Appeals struck down Texas' anti-minority voter ID law, one of the most reactionary in the country.  The law had been pushed through the GOP controlled Texas legislature under the usual GOP pretense of preventing voter fraud - which had not been documented to be a problem - while aiming to restrict minority voting and voting by younger voters who tend to vote Democrat.  Rather than push policies and an agenda attractive to all, the GOP prefers to disenfranchise all those other than aging angry whites voters longing for the days of Jim Crow and a world of unchallenged white privilege.  The New York Times looks at the ruling.  Here are excerpts:
A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the reach of the landmark law.

The case is one of a few across the country that are being closely watched in legal circles after a 2013 Supreme Court decision that blocked the voting act’s most potent enforcement tool, federal oversight of election laws in numerous states, including Texas, with histories of racial discrimination.
While the federal act still bans laws that suppress minority voting, it has been uncertain exactly what kinds of measures cross the legal line since that Supreme Court ruling.
The Texas ID law is one of the strictest of its kind in the country. It requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. Accepted forms of identification include a driver’s license, a United States passport, a concealed-handgun license and an election identification certificate issued by the State Department of Public Safety.

The plaintiffs, including individual voters, civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, said it was discriminatory because a far greater share of poor people and minorities do not have these forms of identification and lack easy access to birth certificates or other documents needed to obtain them.
Student identifications, voter registration cards and utility bills are not considered acceptable proof of identity.

Although the appeals court upheld the finding of discriminatory effect, the three-judge panel said the lower court must re-examine its conclusion that Texas acted with discriminatory purpose.

Texas could appeal to the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans or the United States Supreme Court.

In a 147-page opinion issued in the fall of 2014 after a two-week trial, a district court judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, said the law “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and blocked its enforcement.

She noted the lack of evidence that voter fraud was a threat and cited expert testimony that about 600,000 Texans, mainly poor, black and Hispanic, lacked the newly required IDs and often faced obstacles in obtaining them.

The evidence that the law violated Section 2 was relatively strong, said Justin Levitt, an elections expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, because the racial difference in impact was striking.
Another case, in North Carolina, involves what some say are more subtle effects, and could provide a more telling test of the Voting Rights Act.

There, civil rights advocates and the Department of Justice are challenging cutbacks in a range of measures used disproportionately by minorities, including early voting and same-day registration and voting.

A second case in Texas, involving a challenge to the state’s redistricting, could also set an important legal precedent.
Voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandered districts are the GOP's favored tools to cling to power in the face of a changing America where the hate and bigotry and embrace of ignorance that the GOP are peddling is less and less popular.  

No comments: