A law that would have required
Texans to present a photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote has been rejected by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The law would, the court said, disenfranchise African American and Latino voters.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, certain states (and counties within other states) must "pre-clear" any major changes in voting procedures. The act was imposed to clear away "Jim Crow" laws that had prevented African Americans in the South and American Indians in some areas of the West from casting ballots. In March, Attorney General Eric Holder told Texas that its voter ID law, SB 14, failed to meet the standards required because it was discriminatory. In a 56-page decision, the court agreed, knocking down each of the state's argument one at a time. The ruling stated:
To sum everything up: section 5 prohibits covered states from implementing voting laws that will have a retrogressive effect on racial minorities. See Beer, 425 U.S. at 141. Texas, seeking to implement its voter ID law, bears the burden of proof and must therefore show that SB 14 lacks retrogressive effect. Georgia, 411 U.S. at 538. But as we have found, everything Texas has submitted as affirmative evidence is unpersuasive, invalid, or both. 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 effectiveexercise of the electoral franchise.” Beer, 425 U.S. at 141. Given this, and given that Texas must show that SB 14 lacks both discriminatory purpose and effect, we have no need to examine whether the law was enacted with discriminatory purpose. Accordingly, we shall deny Texas’s request for declaratory relief.
In reaching this conclusion, we emphasize the narrowness of this opinion. Specifically,
we have decided nothing more than that, in this particular litigation and on this particular record, Texas has failed to demonstrate that its particular voter ID law lacks retrogressive effect. Nothing in this opinion remotely suggests that section 5 bars all covered jurisdictions from implementing photo ID laws. To the contrary, under our reasoning today, such laws might well be precleared if they ensure (1) that all prospective voters can easily obtain free photo ID, and (2) that any underlying documents required to obtain that ID are truly free of charge.