A federal judge ruled Monday that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters when they passed a 2011 law mandating that people seeking to vote first provide a specific type of identification.
The ruling was actually the second time the courts weighed in on the state’s voter ID law, and to similar results — last July, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals also found that the law violated the Voting Rights Act because it disproportionately targeted minority voters who were less likely to have those types of IDs.
There was at least one significant difference between the 5th Circuit’s initial decision and Ramos’s later ruling — attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department were not involved. In February, the Justice Department withdrew its claim of lawmakers’ discriminatory intent and left the case to the rest of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“It was reversing the position that career lawyers have been pursuing for several years, and that’s really troubling,” Vanita Gupta, a prosecutor who served as the head of the civil rights division under President Obama, told the New York Times.
But the end result was the same. “Proponents touted [the law] as a remedy for voter fraud, consistent with efforts of other states,” wrote U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in her Monday ruling. “As previously demonstrated, the evidence shows a tenuous relationship between those rationales and the actual terms of the bill.”
Though Texas was forced to conduct the 2016 election under relaxed voter ID rules, the state had asked Ramos — who sits on the 5th Circuit — to rethink her conclusion that lawmakers had purposely discriminated. She declined.
Ramos found that the legislators not only pushed the law through in a “virtually unprecedented” way, but also the law’s requirements were “unduly strict.” And she noted that though lawmakers said they would decrease the state’s $27 million budget shortage, the law actually added some $2 million to the shortfall.
“So not only did [the voter ID law] not accomplish what it was supposed to, it did accomplish [what] it was not supposed to do,” Ramos wrote.