Federal Appeals Court Says Texas Voter ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act

Voter ID Photo ID
AP File Photo/Eric Gay

One of the most conservative appellate courts in the county, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued an opinion on Thursday that throws out parts of Texas Voter ID law and sends parts of it back to lower court for review.

A three judge panel issued a complicated 49-page opinion, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The court affirmed part of a ruling by a U.S. District Court Court in Corpus Christi, Texas. It also rejected another piece of the ruling and sent other parts back to the judge for further review.

“In light of ongoing voter fraud, it is imperative that Texas has a voter ID law that prevents cheating at the ballot box,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State.”

As of now, Texas can no longer enforce its voter ID law. The state can ask the 5th Circuit to hear the appeal en banc (by the entire court). It can also move the appeal forward to the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas can also ask the court to keep the law in effect while the appeals continue.

The 5th Circuit said that the state’s voter ID law violates the Federal Voting Rights Act. The Dallas Morning News reports, “In an unanimous decision, a three-judge panel ruled that the controversial and Republican-backed measure violated Section 2 of the landmark civil rights law. The law has been part of a complicated legal battle for years.

J. Christian Adams, a former Civil Rights Division attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, told Breitbart Texas, “Texas should have fixed the law months ago. Some interests in Austin were telling the legislature the Fifth Circuit would reverse so nothing needed to be done. They were wrong, and it wasn’t the first time that happened in this case.

Adams is also the author of Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.

The DMN report continues:

The court wrote that, if the lower court finds in its review of the case that the voter ID Law only violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, it should find a solution that can still reduce the risk of in-person voter fraud and satisfy the legislative intent of the voter ID law.

“Simply reverting to the system in place before SB 14’s passage would not fully respect these policy choices — it would allow voters to cast ballots after presenting less secure forms of identification like utility bills, bank statements, or paychecks,” the court wrote in a 49-page opinion.

“This ruling tells concerned citizens that an election integrity policy like voter ID can be struck down even after it has proven to not be enacted with any discriminatory intent,” True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “The sanctity of the vote will now break with whoever can best contrive conclusions through craftily curated datasets in the absence of current, concrete evidence.

“One saving grace is that the 5th Circuit has directed all concerned to correct Texas’ voter ID law — while respecting its original intent of preventing fraud and improving trust in our elections. True the Vote has been a leading advocate for voter ID. We will continue to work, on behalf of all Texans, for common- sense election reforms and bring voter ID back to the state.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who is tasked with defending Texas’ voter ID law issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:

Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect. I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters.

Texas has successfully held three statewide elections and numerous local and special elections with the Voter ID law in place – with no disenfranchisement reported.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller presented arguments on April 28, 2015, on behalf of the State of Texas in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The Texas Legislature enacted Texas’ Voter ID law in 2011 through Senate Bill 14 (SB14), which requires voters to present government-issued photo ID when voting at the polls. The seven acceptable forms of photo ID include the following: a Texas driver’s license, free Texas election identification card (EIC), Texas personal identification card, Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, U.S. military identification card, U.S. citizenship certificate, and U.S. passport.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:

As joint author of Texas Voter ID law, I strongly disagree with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which rejected a portion of that law. Texas’ Voter ID law was passed by the legislature with the intent of preserving the integrity of the voting process. There was never any intention of preventing anyone from voting who is legally qualified to do so. It was designed to make sure that every vote that is cast is done so lawfully.

In fact, during the most recent legislative session, Senate Bill 983, by Senator Paul Bettencourt, was passed by the Senate and signed into law by the Governor, allowing any citizen seeking a voter ID to obtain a free birth certificate. Texas law is intended to protect the right to vote, as well as preserve voters’ confidence in our election system, regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler said, in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, “Today’s ruling is simply one step in a legal process and doesn’t change the fact that Texas voters overwhelmingly support Voter ID as a commonsense policy to protect the sanctity of our electoral process. Simply put, most Texans know Voter ID is a vital component to conducting fair elections in our state.”

“If Democrats really care about disenfranchising Texas voters, they should ask their Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to drop the voter fraud case that he has been defending for two years, and that two separate courts of law have said violated the voting rights of Texans,” Mechler challenged. “Until the Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party stops personally taking part in legal cases that disenfranchise voters his words are meaningless and his entire party’s rhetoric is hollow.”

Breitbart Texas will update this developing story as new information becomes available.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.

Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

5th Circuit Court Opinion on Voter ID Law


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