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Federal court rejects Texas voter ID law

A three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday unanimously rejected a Texas law [opinion, PDF] requiring voters to present photo identification to election officials before casting their ballots. The judges concluded that the law [SB 14 text] is "the most stringent [of the photo ID laws] in the country," and would "almost certainly have a retrogressive effect," namely "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor." According to the judges, this finding of a retrogressive effect within the law necessarily invalidated it under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [text, PDF]. In light of the decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] announced plans to appeal [press release] the ruling to the US Supreme Court [official website], though the matter will not be taken up before this November's elections.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] rejected the Texas law [JURIST report] in April, noting that SB 14 would have a disproportionate impact on the state's Latino voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory. The charge came only a month after the DOJ sent a letter [JURIST report] claiming that the law violated Section 5 of the VRA. There are currently 33 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that have passed legislation requiring voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states requiring photo ID. The issue remains legally controversial, most notably in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota [JURIST reports].

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