AUSTIN — Dealing Texas another rebuke over voting rights, a judge Monday again ruled that Republican lawmakers purposefully designed a strict voter ID law to disadvantage minorities and effectively dampen their growing electoral power.
It amounted to the second finding of intentional discrimination in Texas election laws in two months. A different court in March ruled that Republicans racially gerrymandered several congressional districts when drawing voting maps in 2011, the same year the voter ID rules were passed.
Neither ruling has any immediate impact. But the decisions are significant because they raise the possibility of Texas being stripped of the right to unilaterally change its election laws without federal approval. Forcing Texas to once again seek federal permission — known as “preclearance” — has been a goal of Democrats and rights groups since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the rule in 2013.
The latest ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi comes more than two years after she likened Texas’s voter ID rules, known as SB 14, to a “poll tax” meant to suppress minority voters. On Monday, she reaffirmed that conclusion after an appeals court asked her to reexamine her findings.
The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven forms of identification at the ballot box. The list includes concealed-handgun licenses but not college student IDs, and Texas was forced under court order last year to weaken the law for the November elections.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) did not immediately react to the ruling, although the state could once again appeal, something that one of Paxton’s top deputies, Brantley Starr, appeared to suggest would happen while testifying to lawmakers just as the ruling came down.