Federal Courts Versus Republican Efforts to Limit Voting: Texas
Texas Republicans endured a double defeat within three days last week when two separate panels of federal judges tossed voting-related laws because they threatened the voting rights of minorities and poor people.
Like other states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, Texas had adopted a voter ID law that required individuals to show photo identification at polling places. The GOP argued the new law was necessary to curb voter fraud, while Democrats blasted the change as a partisan attempt to deny low-income and minority Americans the ability to vote.
A three-judge panel sided with the Democrats, ruling that the voter ID law would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens” on certain voters. The unanimous decision marked the first time that a federal court had blocked a voter ID law.
Judge David Tatel, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, wrote the opinion. He was supported by Judge Rosemary Collyer, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, and Judge Robert Wilkins, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Only two days before the ruling, another appellate panel threw out Texas’ redistricting plan that Republicans had crafted. The judges found the new legislative and congressional boundaries violated the Voting Rights Act and weakened the political clout of minorities who were the reason why Texas grew in population and gained four more seats in Congress. Latinos accounted for 65% of the increase, blacks 13.4% and Asian-Americans 10.1%, yet Latinos did not gain any seats in the Republican redistricting plan.
The redistricting decision was written by Judge Thomas Griffith, a 2005 Bush appointee. Concurring were Collyer and Judge Beryl Howell, appointed by Obama in 2010.
Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he will appeal both rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court.
To Learn More:
Texas Voter-ID Law Is Blocked (by Sari Horwitz, Washington Post)
Federal Judges Reject Texas Redistricting as Anti-Minority (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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