A judge in Texas ruled that the goal of preventing voter fraud by requiring voters to provide photo-identification does not outweigh the discriminatory effect on blacks and Latinos.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos agreed with the Justice Department and minority rights activists that evidence of in-person fraud was negligible and that the law was imposed with an "unconstitutional discriminatory purpose." During closing arguments during the trial, a Justice Department lawyer stated that in passing the voter-ID law, the Texas legislature created "a solution in search of a problem" that didn't exist.
The Judge wrote in his opinion that "[t]he draconian voting requirements imposed by SB 14 will disproportionately impact low-income Texans because they are less likely to own or need one of the seven qualified IDs to navigate their lives."
The Texas attorney general conveyed that the state would immediately appeal the ruling. "The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional so we are confident the Texas law will be upheld on appeal," the attorney general's office said.
Evidence produced during the two-week trial that took place in September showed only two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in all Texas elections in the last fourteen years. Further, Texas' photo-ID rules do not address mail-in ballot fraud, which all parties agreed is a bigger problem.
Ramos ruled that voters lacking the required identity documents and the means to get them were disproportionately poor or minorities and the cost of acquiring these documents amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Trial evidence showed that more than 600,000 registered Texas voters lost the right to vote at the polls since the law took effect. Ramos said the high number of disenfranchised voters undermined voter confidence in election results, the opposite of what the state intended with the new measures.
The case is Veasey v. Perry, 13-cv-00193, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Corpus Christi).