A Federal appellate court upheld a Texas voter identification law, thus reversing a lower court ruling that had found it allegedly discriminated against racial minorities. On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals thus approved on a 2-1 vote Texas legislators’ efforts to address faults previously found by the courts. The panel reversed a lower court’s ruling that ruled against the state's revisions through Senate Bill 5. The lower court had ruled that the relieve the Texas legislature for supposedly discrimination against racial minorities when drafting one of the country’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011.

According to the appellate court, the Legislature had "succeeded in its goal" of addressing the alleged flaws in the voter ID law. The ruling was a major victory for Texas in nearly seven years of legal wranglings and losses over restrictions on acceptable forms of identification for voters. 

After the legislature first passed the voter ID rules in 2011, a separate three-judge panel and then the full 5th Circuit previously agreed with U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that the law disproportionately burdened minority voters who are ostensibly less likely to have one of the seven accepted forms of identification required at the polls. 

When the appeals court asked Judge Ramos of Corpus Christi to revisit her previous ruling, in which she found that lawmakers purposely discriminated, because of “infirm” evidence she cited. But after reconsideration, Ramos came to the same conclusion in April 2017.

Texas legislators revised the voter ID law in 2017 and passed SB 5, which followed the temporary voter ID rules Ramos mandated for the 2016 elections. In August 2017, Ramos threw out the revised voter ID law and claimed that it had not eliminated the supposed “discriminatory features” of the old law.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton represented the state in court and appealed Ramos’s ruling. The attorney general’s office argued against the notion that the legislature had purposefully discriminated against racial minorities and argued that findings of intentional discrimination should be tossed out because lawmakers rewrote the voter ID law in 2017 to address the concerns cited by the courts. On Friday, Paxton released a statement, declaring: 
“The court rightly recognized that when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 last session, it complied with every change the 5th Circuit ordered to the original voter ID law.” 

Despite efforts by progressives and advocacy groups, the 5th Circuit panel sided with the state and thus dealt them a blow in their effort to put Texas back on federal supervision of its election laws. The advocacy groups had argued that the lower court’s finding of intentional discrimination was proof that minority voters still need judicial protection.

 

 

 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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