In a landmark ruling Thursday, a federal court struck down Texas' controversial new voter identification law, saying it would affect minority voter turnout in the state to a much higher degree than white voter turnout.
In their 56-page ruling, the three-judge panel said the state's evidence presented to prove the law would not adversely affect the poor was deemed "unpersuasive, invalid, or both."
"The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that - at least to our knowledge - is the most stringent in the country," U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel wrote in his ruling. "It imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor."
The ruling marks the first time a court has found a state requiring photo ID for voting in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Act prohibits states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure...to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."
Although voter ID proponents say the law does not target minority voters, the court ruled today that minorities in the state of Texas are more likely than whites to live in poverty, and therefore, they would be the most adversely effected.
Likewise, any adverse effects on minority voting would affect turnout for the Democratic Party, since non-white voters are more likely to vote for President Barack Obama and other Democrat candidates in November.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state will appeal the ruling, adding, "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."
The ruling came just two days after another Washington-based federal court ruled recent re-districting by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature discriminated against black and Latino voters in the state.
In response to the ruling, Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe said, "We are grateful for the decision issued today by the 3 Judge bi-partisan panel sitting in D.C. The panel looked at the evidence objectively and applied the law to the facts."
"It is notable that the bi-partisan opinion concluded that intentional discrimination existed in the manner that the State of Texas drew the new Congressional districts for each of the African American representatives from Texas," Bledsoe added.
Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, appeared on both courts this week. The other two judges who ruled on Thursday included Robert Wilkins, appointed by Obama, and David Tatel, appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
Proponents of the identification laws say voter fraud in the U.S. is rampant, although recent studies have shown voter fraud occurs about as often as someone is struck by lightning - less than 0.001 percent of the time.
"Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare," a 2006 policy analysis paper by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law stated.
"Voter fraud is most often invoked as a substantial problem in order to justify particular election policies. Chief among these is the proposal that individuals be required to show photo ID in order to vote - a policy that disenfranchises up to 10 percent of eligible citizens," the paper added.
A study conducted by researchers at Caltech, Harvard, MIT and the University of Utah found the number of voters disenfranchised in 2008 because they didn't have the proper ID was around 2.2 million.
Meanwhile, federal cases of election fraud convicted only 26 people of voter fraud between 2002 and 2005, according to the Department of Justice.
In 2011 alone, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Wisconsin passed new laws requiring photo ID for voting. South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee - in addition to Texas - tightened their voter ID laws to require photo ID.
This brings the total number of states that have made voting laws more stringent to 17, with a total of 24 with laws on the book that have yet to be enacted.
Meanwhile, the governors of Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina vetoed laws requiring photo ID.
Texas has indicated they will take the voter identification law ruled on today to the Supreme Court. The case is Texas v. Holder, 12-00128, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
by RTT Staff Writer
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