Texas struck a deal Wednesday that will soften its voter ID law for the November general election — a development that lawyers suing the state say will make it easier for minorities to cast their ballots.
The state reached the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and minority rights groups just a few weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that Texas’ 2011 voter identification law was discriminatory.
Under the new terms, registered voters will be able to vote without a photo ID, according to a copy of the rules provided by the state attorney general’s office. Those without an ID can sign an affidavit that certifies they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck. Texas must provide such affidavits in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.
The terms also say election officials cannot question Texans lacking identification.
“This is a huge improvement from what the law was before,” said Luis Vera, one of the attorneys in the lawsuit against Texas.
Texas will also be required to spend $2.5 million on voter outreach before November. The terms specify that the state “shall continue to educate voters in subsequent elections concerning both voter identification requirements and the opportunity for voters who do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot.”
The Chron adds on.
Lawyers for Texas and minority groups have been communicating daily by phone and email to hammer out terms for an agreement, according to a court filing last week that signaled the two sides were close to a deal on at least some terms for a remedy.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos still has to give final approval. A hearing has been set for next week.
“We’re very encouraged by this agreement. It provides critical safeguards for voters,” said Danielle Lang, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, which is representing U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in the case. “We would not have agreed to anything that we didn’t believe fully protected the citizens of Texas.”
Lang noted that lawyers for the minority groups could still file documents later Wednesday asking for the voter ID law to be softened beyond the terms agreed upon with the state.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office defended the law, but cautioned that the “case is not over.”
“In light of the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision, we are working hard on saving all the important aspects of our voter id law,” said Paxton spokesman Marc Rylander. “Given the time constraints of the November elections and the direction of the Fifth Circuit, today’s filings pertain to a proposed interim remedy while we continue evaluating all options moving forward, including an appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
See here and here for the background. This is what was in place for the HD120 special election runoff, not that anyone voted in that race. Basically, what this means is that people who don’t have the limited forms of ID that the now-discarded SB14 required can use one of the forms of ID that used to be allowed. They’ll be casting provisional votes that will actually be counted. Someone asked me the other day what the effect of this ruling would be in Texas, and my answer was “some, at the margins”; it’s hard to say exactly how much because we never had – and now hopefully never will have – a Presidential election where SB14 had been enforced for comparison. Whatever the effect might have been, SB14 was a bad law and we’re good to be rid of it. Rick Hasen, who calls this “a darn good deal for the plaintiffs”, the Press, and the Lone Star Project have more.