The panel at the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that Texas had failed to show that the statute would not harm the voting rights of minorities in the state. In addition, the judges found that evidence indicated that the cost of obtaining a photo ID to vote would fall most heavily on African American and Hispanic voters.
Evidence submitted by Texas to prove that its law did not discriminate was “unpersuasive, invalid, or both,” David S. Tatel, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wrote in the panel’s 56-page opinion. Voting Rights Act cases must be decided by a special panel of three federal judges.
The ruling followed a decision Tuesday by another three-judge panel in Washington that found the Republican-controlled Texas legislature had intentionally discriminated against Hispanics in drawing new legislative districts.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said the state will appeal Thursday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the next stop in a voting rights case.
“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,” Abbott said in a statement.
Legal experts said it is unknown whether the Supreme Court will take the case. Rick Hasen, an election-law specialist at the law school of the University of California at Irvine, said Texas will probably request an emergency injunction from the court that would allow the state to enforce the law during this election cycle.
“If this happens, this will be a major question for the Roberts court, and it would have to be decided in short order,” said Hasen, referring to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval, or “preclearance,” of any voting changes in states that have a history of discrimination. Because of Texas’s history of discrimination, the voter-ID law signed last year by its Republican governor, Rick Perry, had to be cleared by the Justice Department.
The department blocked the law in March, saying it would endanger minority voting rights. Last month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called the voter-ID law a “poll tax,” referring to fees that some Southern states used to disenfranchise blacks during the Jim Crow era.