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Texas Denied Implementation of Proposed Photo Voter ID Law

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

On August 30, a federal three-judge panel in Washington, DC denied Texas's ability to implement its proposed photo voter ID law, under the core provision of the Voting Rights Act that LDF successfully defended in the Supreme Court in 2009.   

LDF, on behalf of its clients the Texas League of Young Voters Educational Fund and four individual African American student-voters, entered the case to challenge the law, which would have erected significant barriers between voters and the polls, in the form of a photo ID law which the Court called "the most stringent in the country." The Court determined that "many Hispanics and African Americans who voted in the last election will, because of the burdens imposed by [the law], likely will be unable to vote in the next election." 

In considering the potential impact of the photo ID law on low income voters, the Court found that "uncontested record evidence conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining ... qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty." The Court also recognized that a "law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote. The same is true when a law imposes an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot, like the $22 many would-be voters who lack the required underlying documentation will have to pay to obtain [the so-called "free" photo ID offered by Texas]." 

The parties will soon commence the second phase of the litigation, in which Texas challenges the constitutionality of the core Section 5 provision of the Voting Rights Act.