Texas Voter Identification Law Upheld By Federal Court, Does Not Discriminate Against Black & Hispanic Voters

The controversial law that critics say discriminates towards racial minorities will stay in effect for the 2018 elections.

Voter casting a ballot.
bizoo_n / iStock

The controversial law that critics say discriminates towards racial minorities will stay in effect for the 2018 elections.

With a vote of 2 to 1 on Friday, a federal appeals court rejected a challenge to Senate Bill 5—a voter identification law that was passed in 2017—declaring that it does not discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. The verdict to reverse the decision of a lower-court was made by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Senate Bill 5 was a revised version to fix Senate Bill 14, a law that was blocked twice by federal courts concluding that it discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.

The original law was passed by the GOP-led Texas Legislature. It stated that voters must have a U.S. passport, driver’s license, military ID, Texas concealed handgun license, or another U.S. government-issued ID. The law was rejected by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. Judge Ramos said that the bill created a clear disadvantage to minorities, saying that it debilitated the electoral influence of the rising Hispanic population in Texas.

Senate Bill 5 added a revision to the original law allowing people who did not have an approved ID to be able to vote if they signed an official document confirming that they could not acquire an approved ID. Instead, the voters would be permitted to show other documentation for proof of identity, like a bank statement or utility bill.

Photo of Texas voter ID laws Senate Bill 5.
  LM Otero / Associated Press

Senate Bill 5 is controversial because it ruled that lying on the official document to vote is a misdemeanor and because people using the alternate forms of ID would be treated differently than other voters. As the Huffington Post reported, Judge Ramos rejected the new bill last August, ruling that it was still discriminatory because voters who lack the required identification “are subjected to separate voting obstacles and procedures.”

On Friday, Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed the three-panel court’s decision in a letter. She declared that the court had no legal or factual basis to invalidate Senate Bill 5. She affirmed that the law must be reinstated until a plaintiff pleads and demonstrates some “constitutional or statutory infirmity.” She wrote that the law is a generous measure to correct the violation found in Senate Bill 14.

The GOP-led lawmakers claimed this as a victory. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said that the court made the right decision and that this protects the integrity of the electoral process. An appeal by the plaintiffs is likely.

As reported by The Dallas News, State Representative Rafael Anchia is not discouraged by the decision. Anchia is a Dallas Democrat who heads the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and he is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“We are undeterred by today’s decision, and we will continue to fight against laws that aim to suppress the vote.”