An Obama nominee presiding over the photo voter ID lawsuit issued an order on Monday finding that the State of Texas did not meet its burden to show that the law was not passed with a discriminatory purpose in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Judge Nelda Gonzales Ramos began her order stating that the Fifth Circuit had held there was sufficient evidence to sustain a conclusion that the Texas voter ID law “was passed with a discriminatory purpose, despite its proponent’s assertions that it was necessary to combat voter fraud.” She also noted that the Fifth Circuit had held that certain evidence in her prior opinion “was not probative of discriminatory intent and posited that this Court may have been unduly swayed by that evidence in making its determination of this issue.”
Ramos had the task of looking at the evidence in conformity with the majority opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In particular, she had the duty to re-examine her prior conclusion on the discriminatory purpose determination.
The federal judge based in Corpus Christi opined that:
Upon reconsideration and a re-weighing of the evidence in conformity with the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, the Court holds that the evidence found “infirm” did not tip the scales. Plaintiffs’ probative evidence—that which was left intact after the Fifth Circuit’s review—establishes that a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage of SB 14. Consequently, the burden shifted to the State to demonstrate that the law would have been enacted without its discriminatory purpose. The State has not met its burden. Therefore, this Court holds, again, that SB 14 was passed with a discriminatory purpose in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Judge Ramos stated once again that Texas has a “long history of discriminatory practices” but assured the parties to the litigation that “the Court did not, and does not, assign distant history any weight in the discriminatory purpose analysis.” She noted that she was bound by the Fifth Circuit’s opinion which “held that historical evidence, to be relevant, must be ‘reasonably contemporaneous.’”
Judge Ramos wrote that “the evidence shows a tenous relationship” between the bill’s proponents saying it was a remedy for voter fraud “and the actual terms of the bill.” The evidence before the Legislature she opined was that there were “only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage.” “The evidentiary support for SB 14 offered at trial was no better,” she added. The bill also did not address mail-in ballots “which is more vulnerable to fraud.” The terms of the bill “were unduly strict” and did not allow photo IDs that were permitted by other states.
Ramos held that there was a “disconnect” between the stated purposes of the bill and the terms of SB 14 as evidenced by “the constantly shifting rationales, revealed as pretext.”
As reported by Breitbart Texas in October 2014, Judge Ramos held that the Texas voter photo ID law, SB 14, violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it had an impermissible discriminatory effect, including deliberate discrimination against blacks and Hispanics, violated the Equal Protection Clause, and unconstitutionally offended voting rights guaranteed under the Fifteenth Amendment. She also found the law constituted an unconstitutional poll tax prohibited by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment because the law provided for a fee for issuing copies of birth certificates or other information needed for a voter ID. SB 14 was signed into law in 2011 by then-Governor Rick Perry.
In July 2016, the Fifth Circuit found that Texas’ voter photo ID law had a discriminatory effect under the Voting Rights Act, but reversed the district court’s finding of discriminatory purpose, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The 9-6 ruling also found that it did not constitute a poll tax but ruled that the lower court must put an “interim remedy” in place to mitigate the “discriminatory effects.” The Fifth Circuit also warned that the district judge should “ensure that any remedy acted ameliorates SB 14’s discriminatory effect while respecting the Legislature’s stated objective to safeguard the integrity of elections by requiring more secure forms of voter identification.” The appellate court also remanded the case to the district court to later determine if the voter ID provisions were written to be intentionally discriminatory.
As reported by Breitbart News, the dissent to the Fifth Circuit’s majority opinion was scathing. Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan nominated judge wrote a dissent which was joined by four judges. She wrote, “Requiring a voter to verify her identity with a photo ID at the polling place is a reasonable requirement widely supported by Texans of all races and members of the public belonging to both political parties.”
Breitbart News Senior Legal Editor Ken Klukowski wrote that “These five judges found particular fault with the court majority’s remanding the case back to district court to explore whether Texas lawmakers intended to discriminate on the basis of race.” He noted the part of Judge Jones’ dissent where she charged, “By keeping this latter claim alive, the majority fans the flames of perniciously irresponsible racial name-calling.” She said that the Fifth Circuit’s “judge-made ‘solutions’” “will backfire.” The public will “question judges’ impartiality,” and “[l]awmakers at every level will be forced to be race-conscious, not race-neutral, in protecting the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the political process.” Jones added that “these unauthorized and extra-legislative transfers of power to the judiciary disable the working of the democratic process, which for all its imperfections, best represents ‘we the people’.”
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) today responded to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas’ latest ruling on the photo voter identification law. “As this case predictably advances through the appellate process, it will not be lost on the justices to come if Texas institutes its waiver program to assist voters without proper ID and finally conclude this left-wing misadventure,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.