Judge Blocks Further Implementation of Texas' Racist voter ID law: Ruled Discriminatory for 5th Time

From [HERE] A federal judge in Corpus Christi blocked further implementation of Texas' controversial voter identification law, after finding  for a second time that it intentionally discriminates against minorities.

In a court order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos blocked Texas from implementing portions of the 2011 voter ID law, which was considered to be one of the strictest in the country. And in a striking blow to the state, she blocked entirely a revamp to the law that the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year as Senate Bill 5. The legislation was an effort to appease Ramos and do away with the finding of discriminatory intent.

"Even if such a turning back of the clock were possible, the provisions of SB 5 fall short of mitigating the discriminatory provisions of SB 14," Ramos wrote. The original voter ID bill was passed as Senate Bill 14.

Ramos had previously ruled in 2014 that the law was purposefully discriminatory, but that ruling was appealed to the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court ruled that the law had discriminatory effects, but asked Ramos to reconsider her ruling that it was drawn up with discriminatory intent. 

In April, Ramos reaffirmed that ruling, saying the law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination, as well as the 14th and 15th amendments.

In all, Texas' voter ID law has been ruled discriminatory five times -- four times by Ramos and once by the 5th Circuit.

Immediately after the ruling became public, Attorney General Ken Paxton promised to appeal it, saying the changes to the law had addressed the discriminatory issues the court had found.

"Today's ruling is outrageous. Senate Bill 5 was passed by the people's representatives and includes all the changes to the Texas voter ID law requested by the 5th Circuit," Paxton said in a written statement. "The U.S. Department of Justice is satisfied that the amended voter ID law has no discriminatory purpose or effect. Safeguarding the integrity of elections in Texas is essential to preserving our democracy. The 5th Circuit should reverse the entirety of the district court's ruling."

Under President Donald Trump's administration, the Department of Justice reversed course on the Obama-era argument that Texas had passed the law to disenfranchise minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. Under Trump, the department has argued that the law was fixed after the Legislature passed the voter ID revamp in May. 

Continued discrimination

Ramos said the revamp continued "provisions that contribute to the discriminatory effects of the photo ID law" and "on its face" embodies some of the signs of purposeful discrimination. She specifically pointed to a controversial provision that would increase penalties for lying on a declaration of impediment that would allow people to vote if they did not have one of the six state-approved identification forms. 

Ramos said the plaintiffs had already demonstrated they were entitled to a remedy that would eliminate the discriminatory parts of the law and that it was the state's burden to prove that the revamp adopted by the Legislature this spring was a sufficient fix. 

The state had not proven that, and Ramos wrote that her decision was made easier by the legislature's choice to build on the existing voter ID law "rather than begin anew with an entirely different structure."

Ramos also criticized the law for not expanding the types of photo IDs that could be used by a person to vote "even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country." The state did expand the accepted use of voter IDs from 60 days to four years, she said, but Ramos said there was no proof to show that change reduced the discriminatory effect of the law.

Even the "greatest benefit" of the changes to the law -- allowing voters over 70 to use expired IDs to vote -- did not remedy its discriminatory effects because a majority of that population was disproportionately white.

Ramos also criticized the way the state had changed the use of the declaration of impediments for voters who did not have approved forms of ID. Those voters would have to list a reason such as lack of transportation or work schedule to show why they could not obtain a state-approved ID in time for an election. In its revamp of the law, the state did away with an "other" option, which Ramos said did not "advance the state's interest in secure elections" and took on "added meaning because of the increased penalties for perjury."

She said the removal of that option would cause a "chilling effect" that would cause qualified voters to forfeit their votes out of fear and appeared to be efforts at "voter intimidation."

And while the state's newly passed revamp proposed to provide mobile units that could issue election identification certificates to voters free of cost, Ramos said Texas provided no educational or training programs or funding for such programs. [MORE]