[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Texas voter ID law [SB 14 text] violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth [texts] Amendments of the US Constitution because it is racially discriminatory and places a substantial burden on the right to vote. The law requires voters to obtain one of six qualified photo IDs and that IDs be current or expired no more than 60 days prior to voting. Those with disabilities can be exempted from the photo ID requirement but only with written verification of the disability. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [advocacy websites] challenged [JURIST report] the law, arguing that it would disenfranchise a large number of voters in the state. The district court determined that over 600,000 registered Texas voters lack one of the qualifying photo IDs, and a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African American voters would be disenfranchised due to the law. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] argues that the law increases election integrity and voter turnout. Abbott stated [press release] that Texas will pursue an immediate appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website].
State voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder] have been highly contested in dozens of US states in recent years. Rights groups argue that voter ID legislation is an attempt by conservatives to preserve their political power through voter suppression of minorities. Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are just a few of the states currently embroiled in litigation with state residents and civil rights advocacy groups over their voter ID legislation. Earlier this week a Texas judge filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging SB 14 in state court, claiming that it violates the Texas Constitution. Also this week the US Supreme Court [official website] blocked [order, PDF] a similar Wisconsin voter ID law from going into effect before the upcoming election. In August 2013 the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed [JURIST report] their petition against the law, rejecting [JURIST report] SB 14 on the grounds that the law would have a disproportionate impact on the state’s minority voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory.