Corpus Christi Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas struck down the Voter ID law and raised the possibility the state's election procedures could be put back under federal oversight, as the New York Times and other media outlets reported.
"In the ten years preceding SB 14, only two cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud were prosecuted to a conviction - a period of time in which 20 million votes were cast", Gonzales Ramos wrote in the October 2014 ruling. Critics point to hunting licenses as allowable voting identification in Texas as another example of the state's selection of eligible voters, positing that ID as more predominant in a conservative, gun-espousing culture than one prominently found in minority communities. The requirement unfairly hurt black and Latino voters, the court found, a voter base that largely swings Democratic. Deputies of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxtonacknowledged that Texas could be subjected to preclearance following the ruling - but said even they are not certain.
She praised Gonzales Ramos for finding a second time that SB 14 violates the Voting Rights Act. Ramos ruled evidence the law would have a discriminatory effect had repeatedly been confirmed, and did not agree with the appeals court that adequate concerns had been raised regarding whether that discrimination was intentional.
"Because the Fifth Circuit found that some of the evidence in this case was not probative of a discriminatory objective in the Texas Legislature's enactment of SB 14, this Court was tasked with re-examining its conclusion on the discriminatory goal issue", the opinion, written by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, said.
"So not only did [the voter ID law] not accomplish what it was supposed to, it did accomplish that which it was not supposed to do", Ramos wrote.
Underthe Voting Rights Act - which prohibits discrimination at the polling place and, among other things, outlawed literacy tests and other ploys that historically targeted minority voters - states with a history of racial discrimination must get permission from the Justice Department before they can change their voting laws.
"Today's ruling is a crucial step in the six-year journey towards justice for Texas voters since this restrictive voter ID law was passed".
She also described the way the bill was pushed through as "extraordinary", saying that it was done "without the usual committee analysis, debate, and substantive consideration of amendment."Ramos challenged the notion that the law existed to prevent voter fraud, questioning why it "did nothing to address mail-in balloting, which is much more vulnerable to fraud".
The state appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court, which in Julyagreed with Ramos's ruling that the voter law was unconstitutional. It also allows voters younger than 70 to show an acceptable form of expired ID up to two years. Trump's DOJ had already shown signs that it would change its posture towards voting restrictions like the one passed in Texas with its attempt in January to delay the district court proceedings in this case.
Last month, the Senate passed a bill identical to the one being considered in the House. Those documents could be bank statements, utility bills, government checks or work paychecks. To use these options, voters must sign an affidavit claiming they faced a reasonable impediment to obtaining a valid photo ID.