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Statement by Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle
"States across the country adopted voter ID laws without intentionally discriminating against their own citizens.
"In Texas, Republican leaders adopted their voter ID law all while knowing it discriminates against Hispanic and African American citizens.
"Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton defend a law they know is discriminatory because they don’t want to change it. It’s a collective act of cowardice by Texas Republican leaders."
The legal battle over the Texas Voter ID law is being waged furiously and, this morning, was the subject of a crucial and historic argument before a three-judge panel of the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The critical issue in question is NOT whether Texas can require a photo ID from voters when ballots are cast. That matter is settled. States can require photo identification of voters.
The challenge to the Texas law involves issues of overt discrimination and discriminatory intent by Texas Republican leaders who adopted and are defending the law. Extensive evidence has been gathered and presented to the courts confirming that the Texas law discriminates against minority citizens.
The video linked here provides a dramatic and heart-wrenching example of a Texan being denied an ID and, consequently, losing his right to vote.
So why is the Texas case different, and more important, than earlier Voter Photo ID legal challenges?
- Two federal courts have already declared the Texas law discriminates against Hispanic and African American Texans. In 2012, a three-judge federal court in Washington, DC ruled the law to be discriminatory. Last summer, in another Federal District Court, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck the law down as an illegal poll tax that was adopted with discriminatory intent.
- The 5th Circuit decision will be the first appeals court ruling on a law found to be intentionally discriminatory since the US Supreme Court ruled in the Shelby v. Alabama case.
- If the 5th Circuit reverses the district court ruling – especially the finding of intentional discrimination – it will significantly weaken the Voting Rights Act and give Texas and other states enormous leeway to knowingly adopt voting laws that hinder and suppress the ability of minority citizens to vote.
- Last summer, Federal District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the Texas law violates the US Voting Rights Act by illegally discriminating against minority Texans.
- Judge Ramos ruled that the provisions are so restrictive that they constitute an illegal poll tax. Moreover, Judge Ramos ruled that Texas Republican leaders adopted the voter restrictions with the intent to discriminate against Hispanic and African American Texans.
- Rather than change the provisions of the Texas law to bring it into compliance with the Voting Rights Act, state Republican leaders, led by Greg Abbott, appealed the lower court ruling to the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard the case this morning and is expected to issue a ruling in several weeks.
- The plaintiffs challenging the Texas law are led by Congressman Marc Veasey (TX33 – Fort Worth). Their legal counsel, Chad Dunn, argued the case before the 5th Circuit today. The organization leading the plaintiffs’ efforts is the Campaign Legal Center which is run by highly respected voting rights attorney J. Gerald Hebert.