25 August, 2017
In a tweet following the ruling, Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat from the Dallas-Fort Worth area who was a plaintiff in the case, said: "Time and time again courts have ruled that Texas Republican leadership have continued their crusade to undermine voting power of minorities".
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the law was enacted with the deliberate intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters.
Judge Ramos decided that the rewrite did not change the discriminatory language in the original bill. Ramos said the law violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.
A federal court blocked Texas voter ID law Senate Bill 14 during the 2016 election, and a second measure - SB 5 - was put into place that allowed voters who had no photo ID to vote by signing a declaration.
Those voters could present documents such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks to confirm their identification.
But Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, cheered the ruling saying that Judge Ramos was holding Texas accountable for its "pernicious conduct".
"SB 5 [the 2017 law] 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. "SB 5 perpetuates the selection of types of ID most likely to be possessed by Anglo voters and, disproportionately, not possessed by Hispanics and African-Americans", Ramos wrote.
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On Wednesday, Ramos said Senate Bill 5 was "an improvement" but also said it didn't solve the discrimination issue with the original law. Ramos acknowledged that Texas promised to spend $4 million on voter education, but she noted that this promise is nowhere in "SB 5 or any other statute".
Ramos left intact one portion of the original law that wasn't challenged - increasing penalties for voting when ineligible, for voting a couple of times in an election or for impersonating another voter to a second-degree felony with up to 20 years in prison.
Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately pledged to appeal the ruling.
"Today's ruling is outrageous", Paxton said in a written statement. Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy. Ramos' 2014 ruling that the law was purposefully discriminatory was appealed to the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. If someone was found to be lying on the form, which states the person couldn't reasonably get a photo ID due to issues like sickness or work, they could face up to two years in prison.
She ordered the parties to submit briefs by August 31 on whether she should retain jurisdiction over Texas voter ID laws. "The federal district court's decisions rejecting SB 14 and SB 5 reaffirm the core goal of the hard-fought Voting Rights Act which sought to eliminate racially discriminatory barriers to voting no matter how they are disguised". The U.S. Supreme Court wiped clean the list in 2013 but left open the possibility that states could return to the list if they intentionally discriminated in the future.
In 2014, she ruled that the law, which required registered voters to present one of seven forms of photo identification - a driver's license, state ID, concealed handgun permit, passport, us citizenship certificate, military ID or special voter ID - in order to cast a ballot, illegally discriminated against those without the money or means to get an ID.