Just over a week ago, it was North Carolina legislators ordered by the court to cough up documentation relating to passage of new, draconian restrictions on voting rights in their state. Now, legislators in Texas are facing much the same thing, as that state’s extreme polling place Photo ID restrictions also face legal and Constitutional challenge. By way of an eight-page Order [PDF]issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has directed the State of Texas to serve upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) documents that relate to the question of whether “state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14,” the Lone Star State’s polling place Photo ID restriction law. That law had previously been found to be discriminatory against minority voters in TX, and thus rejected by both the DoJ and a federal court panel as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It was then re-enacted by the state of Texas almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central provision of the VRA in the summer of 2013.
… The DoJ’s case cites previous findings made by the unanimous three-judge, U.S. District Court panel in Washington D.C., which had denied the state’s request that it preclear SB 14 under Section 5 of the VRA. In that previous case, the court found: “Undisputed record evidence demonstrates that racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty and, because SB 14 will weigh more heavily on the poor, the law will likely have retrogressive effect” on their right to vote.
When rejecting the law as discriminatory under Section 5 in 2012, the DoJ had determined [PDF], as based on the state’s own statistics, that the law would have disproportionately disenfranchised registered Hispanic voters in the state. They found that registered Hispanics are anywhere from 46% to 120% more likely than non-Hispanics to lack the type of state-issued Photo ID that would now be required to vote under SB 14’s restrictions.