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Judge Tosses Out Texas Voter ID Law

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A federal judge ruled Aug. 23 that a voter ID law in Texas was unconstitutional because it unduly discriminates against Hispanics and African-Americans.

Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos decided that a requirement to show at least one of seven types of government-approved identification placed an unfair burden on some voters, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Ramos wrote that in adopting the law, Texas legislators had "acted with discriminatory intent -- knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African-American voters," according to the Statesman.

The law was first proposed in 2011, but in 2016, Ramos overturned it. After that ruling was confirmed by an appeals court, Texas legislators adopted a modified law (SB 5) that allowed voters without ID to cast a ballot if they signed a declaration explaining why they did not have the documentation. SB 5 included the provision that if anybody lied on the declaration, the authorities could prosecute them for a felony which carried a two-year prison sentence.

"The court has found that the SB 5 [Declaration of Reasonable Impediment] process does not fully relieve minorities of the burden of discriminatory features of the law," Gonzales wrote, according to The Hill.

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SB 5 was supported by the federal Department of Justice. Under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department's position was that the original law was discriminatory.

Ramos also noted that the state does not accept enough types of ID "even though the (5th District Court of Appeals) was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country," according to Reuters.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded with frustration to the ruling.

"Today's ruling is outrageous," he said in a statement.

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"Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy," added Paxton, who stated he would appeal the ruling, the Statesman reported.

But Ramos did not accept that further restrictions were required.

"The court's finding of discriminatory intent strongly favors a wholesale injunction against the enforcement of any vestige of the voter photo ID law," she added. "Second, the lack of evidence of in-person voter impersonation fraud in Texas belies any urgency for an independently fashioned remedy from this court at this time."

In a previous ruling, Ramos described the allegations of voter fraud raised by Texas Republicans to justify the voter ID law as a  "pretext" to adopt laws that disproportionately affect sections of the population more likely to vote for Democrats.

Sources: Austin American-Statesman, The Hill, Reuters / Featured Image: World Travel and Tourism Council/Flickr / Embedded Images: Alice Linahan/Flickr, Daniel Mayer/Wikimedia Commons

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