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Texas SB 14 Voter ID Law Struck Down for Discrimination, One More Time

Texas Senate Bill 14, which Governor Rick Perry signed into Texas law in 2011, was struck down by the courts, again. The ruling specifically explained that the voter ID initiative violated the Voting Rights Act due to the discriminatory purpose of the law. While the Fifth Circuit essentially made the same finding last July, it remanded the case to District Court to reconsider in light of some evidentiary rulings.

The court found that "a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind the passage of SB 14." The court pointed out that one of the state's alleged stated purposes for the law, to prevent voter fraud, was clearly a pretext as only two convictions of voter fraud were made over the past decade with over 20 million votes cast in Texas. The court found the state's other defenses of non-discriminatory purpose similarly unconvincing.

Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws vary from state to state, but generally must pass the federal minimum requirements that were set forth to prevent discrimination. While there are some states where no ID is required to vote, in many others, you may be required to show a government issued ID, or some other official proof of identity.

Texas's SB 14 only allowed seven types of ID, and as such, many common forms of ID that are acceptable in other states with voter ID laws, were prohibited, including student IDs. It was reported that over 600,000 Texans, or nearly 5% of registered voters, did not have proper SB 14 identification. If allowed, it would be the harshest voter ID law in the country.

What Comes Next?

The state is likely gearing up for a new appeal, and would likely attempt to take this matter up to the Supreme Court. Highly contentious civil rights cases such as these get divided along political party lines, and special interests will probably keep this matter alive, despite the incredibly damning factual finding of a discriminatory purpose, until the Supreme Court denies hearing the case.

Alternatively, the special interests fighting this case and pushing the state to pass a strict voter ID law could just back down from this legal battle, if the state proposed a new law that comported with federal law, and the court's order.

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