Federal Court Orders Remedy Following Court of Appeals Decision in Texas Voter ID Case
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an order late yesterday significantly expanding the opportunities for eligible Texas voters without specific forms of photo identification to cast valid ballots in upcoming elections.
According to the order, eligible voters who face a reasonable impediment to obtaining specific forms of photo ID will be able to cast a regular ballot at the polls after signing a simple declaration and presenting a document from a more expansive list. This solutions echoes provisions already in federal law.
The order follows the outline of an agreement that the Justice Department reached with private plaintiffs and with the state of Texas. It implements changes in accordance with the July 20, 2016, decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, affirming an earlier ruling that the state’s 2011 photo identification law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
“Our democratic process depends on ensuring that eligible citizens can cast their votes without undue discriminatory hurdles,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The court’s interim remedy order is a very important step toward a process designed to provide that opportunity for hundreds of thousands of eligible Texans.”
The challenged 2011 photo identification law allowed most registered Texas voters to cast a regular ballot at the polls only if they were able to show one of a few limited forms of photo ID, like a state-issued driver’s license or a license to carry a handgun. The law also mandated that registered Texans could only use such ID if it was current or expired no more than 60 days beforehand. The federal court order now allows registered voters with the requisite ID to vote, even if that ID expired up to four years ago. It also allows registered voters who face a reasonable impediment to obtaining such ID to cast a regular ballot after signing a simple declaration and presenting a voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address.
More information about the VRA and other federal voting laws is available on the division’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/. Complaints about voter registration practices may be reported to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section at 1-800-253-3931.