It’s been a bad week for voter ID laws.
On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive study showing that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee decreased voter turnout by two to three points from 2008 to 2012 compared to similar states without voter ID laws, leading to 122,000 fewer votes.
Last night, a federal district court struck down Texas’s voter ID law, the strictest in the country, calling it “an unconstitutional poll tax.”
An hour later, the Supreme Court released a brief order blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law for November. The 6-3 ruling didn’t explain why, but hinted it was because the massive new voting restriction was reinstated by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit weeks before the election. Nearly 10 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin don’t have a government-issued ID, and the new requirement was causing chaos on the ground. (Wisconsin’s elimination of early voting on nights and weekends remains in effect.)
My colleague John Nichols wrote about the Wisconsin decision, so I’ll focus on the Texas case.
The 147-page opinion by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the Southern District of Texas, an Obama appointee, is the most extensive rebuke of strict voter ID laws that I’ve read to date. It debunks the myths that everyone has the limited forms of government-issued photo ID required to vote, that it’s easy to get one, that there is an epidemic of voter fraud necessitating such laws, and that voter ID laws are always constitutional.