On March 10, a federal court in Texas found that the state’s congressional redistricting maps “intentionally diluted minority voting strength in order to gain partisan advantage.”
Exactly a month later, another federal court in Texas ruled that the state’s strict voter-ID law “was passed with a discriminatory purpose in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Notice a pattern here?
Yesterday’s ruling by District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos was a big victory for voting rights and a big loss for Jeff Sessions and the Trump Justice Department, who reversed the Obama administration’s position that the law was intentionally discriminatory.
Ramos’s decision was the fifth time Texas’s voter-ID law has been struck down by the courts. A federal district court in Washington, DC, first blocked the law all the way back in August 2012. But after the Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that states with a long history of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government under the Voting Rights Act, Texas’s law went into effect within hours.
The law was blocked again in September 2014 by Judge Ramos, who found that 608,470 registered voters in Texas, 4.5 percent of the electorate, did not possess the limited forms of government-issued ID required to cast a ballot (a handgun permit was accepted but a student ID was not), with African Americans three times as likely as whites not to have a voter ID, and Hispanics twice as likely. “It is clear from the evidence,” Ramos wrote, “that SB 14 disproportionately impacts African-American and Hispanic registered voters relative to Anglos in Texas…. To call SB 14’s disproportionate impact on minorities statistically significant would be an understatement.”
She called the law “an unconstitutional poll tax” and said it was passed by the Texas Legislature “because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate.”