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Forum Post: Federal Court Rejects Texas Voter ID Law

Posted 11 years ago on Aug. 30, 2012, 5:49 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Federal court rejects Texas voter ID law


By NBC News staff and news services

Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET: A federal court in Washington on Thursday blocked a Texas law that would require voters to present photo IDs to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots in November, saying it would place an unfair burden on minorities and the poor. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel ruled that that SB 14, described as the most stringent voter ID law in the country, imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

“Texas, seeking to implement its voter ID law, bears the burden of proof and must therefore show that SB 14 lacks retrogressive effect. But as we have found, everything Texas has submitted as affirmative evidence is unpersuasive, invalid, or both,” the opinion said.

“Moreover, uncontested record evidence conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining SB 14-qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty. We therefore conclude that SB 14 is likely to lead to ‘retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.’”

The ruling was the second legal blow to Texas this week. On Tuesday, another federal court panel threw out a Texas redistricting plan, finding evidence of discrimination in voting maps drawn by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature.

The decision on the voter ID law involves an increasingly contentious political issue: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governor's offices to impose strict identification requirements on voters.

Republicans are aggressively seeking the requirements in the name of stamping out voter fraud. Democrats, with support from a number of studies, say that fraud at the polls is largely non-existent and that Republicans are simply trying to disenfranchise minorities, poor people and college students -- all groups that tend to back Democrats.

The ruling comes in the same week that South Carolina's strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected in time for the November election.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed SB 14 into law on May 27, 2011. The law has yet to take effect because the state needs “preclearance” for any change in voting procedures from either the U.S. attorney general or a three-judge U.S. District Court panel.

The judges said such voter ID laws might well be approved if they ensure that all prospective voters can easily obtain free photo IDs, and that any underlying documents required to obtain that ID are truly free of charge.

But the judges noted the Texas Legislature tabled or defeated amendments that would have, among other things, waived all fees for indigent persons who needed the underlying documents and reimbursed poor people for ID-related travel costs.

In the Texas case, the Justice Department called several lawmakers, all of them Democrats, who said they detected a clear racial motive in the push for the voter ID law. Lawyers for Texas argued that the state was simply tightening its laws. Texas called experts who demonstrated that voter ID laws had a minimal effect on turnout. Republican lawmakers testified that the legislation was the result of a popular demand for more election protections.

During an appearance at the NAACP convention in in Houston in July, Attorney General Eric Holder said Texas' photo ID requirement amounts to a poll tax, a term that harkens back to the days after Civil War Reconstruction when blacks across the South were stripped of their right to vote. The attorney general told the NAACP that many Texas voters seeking to cast ballots would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain the required photo ID.

In a statement Thursday, Holder said he was pleased by the court's action. “The court’s decision today and the decision earlier this week on the Texas redistricting plans not only reaffirm -- but help protect -- the vital role the Voting Rights Act plays in our society to ensure that every American has the right to vote and to have that vote counted," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Texas law does not comply with the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices blamed for the widespread disenfranchisement of blacks. "As you know this administration believes it should be easier for elligible citizens to vote, to register and vote. We should not be imposing unnecessary obstacles or barriers to voter participation," Carney said.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state will appeal the panel's rejection to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box,” he said in a statement. “Today's decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana - and were upheld by the Supreme Court. The State will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we are confident we will prevail."

The Associated Press contributed to this report compiled by NBC News' James Eng.



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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

South Carolina Voter ID Law Takes Hits in Court

Saturday, 01 September 2012 10:52 By James Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers | Report


Washington - Inside and outside a federal courtroom a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, it appeared to be a rough week for South Carolina's bid to protect its elections against fraud.

During five days of often dramatic testimony on a disputed voter ID law, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia repeatedly upheld objections that the state's lawyers were asking leading questions of their witnesses or prodding them to recount third-party conversations the judges struck down as hearsay. In a case that, under the Voting Rights Act, hinges partly on whether the voter ID law was motivated by discriminatory intent, the law's chief architect, state Rep. Alan Clemmons, was compelled to admit he'd responded sympathetically to a racist email sent to him about the measure as he was crafting it.

And Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission, testified that her agency lacked the legal authority to impose on county election boards and poll workers a uniform standard on how to implement some of the disputed law's key provisions.

Her testimony troubled the judges, who noted that it was at odds with what she and other South Carolina officials had said earlier in documents and depositions for the trial about how the law would be handled.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson signaled another potential shift by the state on Friday when he said voters without required photo IDs should not have to pay for completing "reasonable impediment" affidavits required by the law. Separate state law requires affidavits to be notarized, which normally carries a fee.

"We would consider it unconstitutional for notaries to charge," Wilson said.

That new stance may have been in response to courtroom claims by the voter ID law's opponents that notary fees would amount to a poll tax, among the most odious of the Jim Crow practices used for decades in Southern states to prevent African-Americans from voting. Outside the courtroom, a different group of federal judges delivered disappointing news for advocates of voter ID laws.

On Thursday, a separate three-judge panel of the court ruled that Texas' voter ID law was illegal because it violated the Voting Rights Act, the landmark law Congress passed in 1965 to enforce the constitutional right of African Americans and other minority voters to cast ballots and have them count.

Evidence and testimony in the South Carolina trial, some of which lawyers for the state tried unsuccessfully to strike from the record, could lead to similar conclusions. The state's law, which would require voters to present one of five forms of photo identification, was blocked by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act, prompting the lawsuit by South Carolina against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Among the most stunning moments of this week's trial also could weaken South Carolina's cause.

Garrard Beeney, a New York lawyer and lead attorney for the national civil rights groups that intervened in the case against the state, asked a clearly uncomfortable Clemmons whether he considered it racist to liken potentially disenfranchised South Carolinians to "a swarm of bees going after a watermelon" – part of the email to which the legislator had blessed with an "amen." When Clemmons dodged the question twice, Beeney bore in: "Third time, sir. Is it racist or not in your view?"

Finally Clemmons conceded, "There is certainly a shade of racism there."

And on Friday, state Sen. John Scott, who was both the only Democrat and the only African-American on the conference committee that finalized the law's language, testified about what he saw as the motivation behind the measure.

Asked whether he thought Republican legislators intended to suppress the black vote, he responded: "I do. I really and truly do. I believe that."

Time will tell whether the judges view as legally material the statement by Clemmons, the author of a law that, as required by the Voting Rights Act, cannot have been driven by discriminatory intent toward African-Americans.

But there were other moments in the trial that appeared to test the judges' patience.

The judges gently upbraided Andino for what they criticized as her changing accounts of how her agency would implement the law. After Andino testified that the State Election Commission couldn't tell local election workers how to implement the law, she wavered on when they should give the benefit of the doubt to voters who lacked photo ID under the new law and signed an affidavit under its "reasonable impediment" exception.

"The number of exceptions made on reasonable impediment . . . may make this law fundamentally different from how it was portrayed to us," said Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who sits on a federal appellate bench and is filling in on the district panel for the case.

One moment of pique came when the panel told Christopher Bartolomucci, a former White House lawyer for President George W. Bush who is representing South Carolina, to stop putting words in the mouths of his witnesses.

"Come on, Mr. Bartolomucci, I'm sure you know how to do this," said U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the trial's presiding judge. With the Texas ruling and a week of mixed trial results behind it, South Carolina's best hopes may lie with the U.S. Supreme Court. Any appeals of federal district court rulings must, under the Voting Rights Act, bypass the federal appellate bench and go directly to the high court. If the district court judges reject the South Carolina voter ID law, the Supreme Court could consolidate it with the Texas law and rule on both together.

For now, lawyers trying to defeat South Carolina's law pronounced themselves quite satisfied.

"We believe that the evidence presented during the trial overwhelmingly establishes that if the law goes into effect, it will disenfranchise thousands of minority persons in South Carolina, and that the purpose of the law was indeed to accomplish precisely this effect," Beeney told McClatchy.

Wilson's assessment was more subdued.

"I am pleased we had the opportunity to present our case to the court," he said.

© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 11 years ago

No one cares?

Too bad Texas is solid Red. I heard this week they estimate it will be blue in 10 years.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago

population density perhaps

and hear I was hoping we be past the two party system by then

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 11 years ago

That would be nice. I suppose it is possible.

If so then I guess the point is that the caring progressive side of human interaction will win out over the selfish conservative side. Red/Blue, Dem/Rep, don't really matter. These are just labels.

The difference is I care about is how we treat each other! If we care about others we are being progressive, If we only care about ourselves we are being conservative.

[-] 1 points by Nevada1 (5843) 11 years ago

Thank you for post.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (23771) 11 years ago

"Ballot integrity," give us a break.

Should we praise the court for doing what was obviously moral and right by the American people? Nah. We should expect more of the same.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 11 years ago

These current voter suppression crimes outrage me so much, You have any idea why our forum partners seem to ignore this.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (23771) 11 years ago

No. It's a huge issue. Whenever I see it mentioned here I try to bump it up.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 11 years ago

Beautiful. Ohio court just found for allowing 3 day early voting that the repubs tried to end 'cause African American frequently vote after church on the sunday before election day.