Court upholds Texas’ law in another big voter ID ruling

Texas’ voter ID law that was twice blocked over findings of discrimination can stay in effect for the 2018 elections, a U.S. appeals court ruled Friday. It was the second major ruling over voting rights in the U.S. this week after an Arkansas judge on Thursday blocked that state’s voter ID measure as unconstitutional. But in a 2-1 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the Texas law that critics have slammed as one of the toughest voter ID measures in the nation was seen as a suitable replacement for the original 2011 law that a federal judge had likened to a “poll tax” on minority voters. The biggest change to the Texas law — which accepts handgun licenses as sufficient identification to vote, but not college student IDs — is that voters without any acceptable photo ID can still cast a ballot so long as they sign an affidavit. Opponents and a federal judge in Texas balked at the revisions, saying criminal penalties tied to lying on the affidavit could have a chilling effect on voters. U.S. Circuit Judge Edith Jones said the lower court went too far. “The district court relied too heavily on evidence of Texas’s state-sponsored discrimination from a bygone era,” Jones wrote in her majority opinion. The revisions to Texas’ law were also supported by the U.S. Justice Department — a move that amounted to a complete reversal for the federal government, which under former President Barack Obama had joined minority rights groups in suing over the law. But two months after Donald Trump took office, the Justice Department abandoned the argument that Texas passed voter ID rules with discrimination in mind and said the changes should satisfy the courts. Opponents bristled at the ruling but didn’t immediately indicate their next step.

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