Voter ID law thrown out


Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A federal judge has tossed out a new law softening Texas’ strict voter identification requirements.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Wednesday ruled that Senate Bill 5, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, doesn’t absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against Latino and black voters when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011. The judge also ruled that the state failed to prove that the new law would accommodate such voters going forward.


Minority groups suing the state had asked Ramos to scrap SB 5, saying it still dripped with discrimination — largely because lawmakers did not expand the list of acceptable IDs.

Ramos agreed in her ruling Wednesday.

“SB 5 does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify, even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country,” she wrote. “Not one of the discriminatory features of [the old law] is fully ameliorated by the terms of SB 5.”

SB 5’s process for voters without proper ID, Ramos wrote, “trades one obstacle to voting with another—replacing the lack of qualified photo ID with an overreaching affidavit threatening severe penalties for perjury.”

The ruling also said Texas couldn’t be trusted to educate voters about changes to its ID law, following its widely criticized efforts ahead of elections in 2016 that were marked by confusion at the polls. She noted that Texas has claimed to spend $4 million on voter education before the 2018 elections, “but this stipulation is not part of SB 5 or any other statute.”

See here for the most recent update, and here for a copy of Judge Ramos’ order. Rick Hasen explains what this means.

To simplify things just a bit, when the district court first looked at this case, it determined that Texas’s voter ID law had a racially discriminatory effect, violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as a racially discriminatory purpose, violating the VRA and the 14th and 15th Amendment of the Constitution. When the case reached the Fifth Circuit on appeal, a sharply divided court sitting en banc (all of the 5th Circuit judges) agreed that the law violated Section 2 given its racially discriminatory effect. But the judges also held that the trial court had to reconsider the question of racially discriminatory purpose, because the court considered some evidence it should not have in evaluating purpose. The Supreme Court did not take a further appeal, with Chief Justice Roberts issuing a separate statement saying that the case was not really final enough to merit Supreme Court review.

For two reasons, it matters whether the courts find discriminatory purpose in addition to discriminatory effect. When there is just a discriminatory effect, the remedy is much narrower. In this case, the interim remedy was to tinker with the voter id law, such as allowing voters to file an affidavit explaining why they lack the necessary ID signed under penalty of perjury. With a finding of purpose, however, the entire law could (and today was) thrown out. Second, a finding of intentional discrimination can be the basis, under section 3c of the Voting Rights Act, to put Texas back under the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act for up to 10 years, at the court’s discretion. The court has scheduled further briefing on the section 3c issue for the end of the month.

Today the court reaffirmed the discriminatory purpose finding, and held that the tweaks Texas made to its voter id law in a recent session did not solve the problem of discriminatory purpose. In some ways Texas made things worse. The affidavit requirement, for example, could intimidate voters given that many sections open up voters to prosecutions for felony perjury. The Court also noted that the new law did not include any money for voter education, which the court found crucial to a fairly applied voter id law.

As Hasen notes, the state will surely appeal, and unlike the redistricting case that will go to the Fifth Circuit, probably to an en banc panel. The key question there will be whether they put Judge Ramos’ ruling on hold and allow the SB5 version of voter ID to remain in effect during the appeals process or not. Ultimately, this ruling as well as any determination that Texas needs to be put back under preclearance, will go to SCOTUS. We’re still a ways off from that, but do remember that discriminatory intent was also found in the redistricting case, so there are two possible causes for a return to preclearance. I’ll say again, the state is on quite the losing streak with voting rights litigation. Being put back under preclearance would be richly deserved. Oh, and both parties will be back in court on the 31st to set a schedule for briefings and hearings on the preclearance question. I can hardly wait. A statement from MALC is here, and the Statesman, the Associated Press, Mother Jones, the DMN, Daily Kos, the Current, ThinkProgress, Vice News, and the Lone Star Project have more.

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14 Responses to Voter ID law thrown out

  1. neither here nor there says:

    What is the difference between Trump supporters and ISIS? Trump supporters use American made cars. I assume that some Trump supporters are not terrorists.

  2. Flypusher says:

    On another forum I had an interesting discussion on did the Dems misplay their response here. The lawsuits are the simplest route, and there has been success, but I do wonder if there had been more fighting to make sure that everyone got IDs, it would have been a nice end run around the suppression attempt.

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    Texas spent millions of dollars to ensure that Texans with no DL or TX ID card were able to get a voter certificate, and as I recall, only about 300 or so were actually issued.

    Maybe it’s time to face the reality that “muh voter suppression” is about as valid as “muh Russia collusion,” which is to say, both are flights of fancy, rather than reality.

    The only group of sin papeles CITIZENS I can think of that wouldn’t have gotten the voter certificate is citizens with warrants, unpaid child support, or who are wanted in connection with crimes, who may feel uncomfortable with presenting themselves at a DPS office where they might face arrest. If there are hundred of thousands of wanted Texans who have no ID running around, that would be a legitimate argument, that Texas is intentionally disenfranchising the criminal-American community, but that isn’t the argument you have promulgated.

    As to the fear of perjury argument, I guess that makes sense. I mean, the political class gets to lie under oath with impunity, so why shouldn’t undocumented immigrants and felons be allowed to do the same thing?

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    *FREE voter certificate… poll tax involved.

  5. neither here nor there says:

    Nothing is free Bill.

    It is a racist law enacted by racist Republicans.

  6. brad m says:


    If you have any evidence to remotely support your unsubstantiated claim (read: lie) please share it with us.

    We are waiting.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    “The Texas Department of Public Safety also offers free voter ID cards, called election identification certificates, to voters without another viable form of ID. DPS said 226 certificates have been issued since June 2013.”

  8. Bill Daniels says:


    You got me. I lied about the number of election certificates issued, and I freely admit and apologize for misleading Kuff readers. The actual number of voter certificates issued, from 2013-2017 was……869. I was off by 569 certificates.

    “….almost no voters have taken advantage of the program. From the time they began to be offered in June 2013 to April 2017, when ProPublica requested the numbers, only 869 free IDs had been provided statewide.”

  9. neither here nor there says:

    Bill if you bothered to read the article you would find that it does not make the point you are making.

    Reminds me of the story of the man who cut paper and threw it over his shoulder. When asked why he stated it keeps the elephants away. But there are no elephants here.

    Guy who cuts paper, see it works.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Neither: I read both articles, in order to glean the number of voter certificates issued. The first article was only for 2013, but the second covers the whole time period the certificates were issued. The articles give a whole lot of opinion, namely, that people who are wanted for crimes and for unpaid child support didn’t want to show up at a DPS office and take a chance of getting arrested. My heart bleeds for those criminals and deadbeats (it doesn’t).

  11. neither here nor there says:

    Bill you took a very small part of a very large article and magnified it. The part you are referring to is the that only the DPS would issue IDs and they finger printed everyone. I am still mad about them finger printing me when I renewed. my driver’s license. Some people did not want to be finger printed. I would not have taken my finger prints, voting is not worth the government having all our finger prints, will they start putting chips in newborns?

    For a libertarian you sure take the government intrusion into one’s life with little or no regard.

    This and much more was in the article, that some how have no importance to you;

    “There was no need for compromise anymore,” said Smith. “Which apparently resulted in an unconstitutional piece of legislation.”
    The new law allowed seven forms of government-issued photo ID only — types critics say were chosen because white residents were most likely to possess them. While previous versions of the law allowed student IDs, tribal IDs, government employee IDs and IDs issued by other states, these were left out of the 2011 bill without explanation. Gone, too, were the provisions from previous iterations that allowed the use of two non-photo IDs in place of one photo ID. The 2011 bill also made it more difficult for disabled voters to qualify for an exemption and the final version removed provisions that allowed indigent voters a waiver.
    In an interview, Carlos Cascos, a former Republican county judge from South Texas who served as Texas’ secretary of state from January 2015 to January 2017, said he has yet to see any evidence of the mass fraud claimed by some in the Republican Party. Cascos said he generally avoided discussions on the existence of in-person voter fraud when he was in office because his criticism was not warmly received.
    “I just don’t believe that voter fraud was rampant in the state,” he said, adding that the “weak link” is mail-in ballot fraud, which the voter ID bill did not address. “I don’t believe that you have literally thousands of people showing up to the polling place and that’s not who they are.”

    During the process of drafting SB 14, the Texas secretary of state’s office studied its potential impact. They estimated between 3 percent and 7 percent of Texas voters did not have a driver’s license or personal ID. Staff members at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s office were told of the findings, but testimony in 2014 shows that they were never given to the rest of the Legislature, even though members – including Harless – had repeatedly asked for such numbers. Attorneys for the state said the numbers were not disseminated because they were unreliable — the office was experiencing problems matching the list of registered voters to the list of driver’s license holders. A full analysis — including an accounting of voters with Spanish surnames who were without these IDs — was not completed until long after the law had passed.

  12. neither here nor there says:

    Free is not free one still had to have one of the following which could involve significant costs to obtain a “free” ID

    Individuals who are U.S. citizens can present one of the following documents for verification through DHS.
    • U.S. passport book or card
    • Birth certificate issued by a U.S. state, U.S. territory or District of Columbia

    NOTE: Because Puerto Rican statute provides that Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 are no longer valid, the Department cannot recognize these birth certificates as proof of identification or lawful presence. For more information please select the following link.
    • For U.S. citizens born abroad—Certificate of Report of Birth (DS-1350 or FS-545) or Consular Report of Birth (FS-240) issued by the U.S. Department of State
    • U.S. Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization (N-560, N-561, N-645, N-550, N-55G, N-570 or N-578)
    • U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service U.S. Citizen ID Card (Form I-197 or I-179)

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