By Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams
The Daily Signal
(August 29, 2017)
Some judges are determined to strike down election integrity laws, no matter what.
How else can you explain last week’s irrational decision handed down by federal District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos?
A President Barack Obama appointee, Ramos is at least consistent. This was the fifth time she has rejected a voter ID law for Texas.
Her 2014 rebuff of the original version of the Texas law made it clear that she believes all voter ID laws are based solely on the desire to discriminate, not improve the integrity of the election process.
Now you know why the plaintiffs went shopping to her federal court to bring the statewide challenge.
In 2014, Ramos ruled that the law discriminated against minority voters—ignoring clear evidence that this is not the case. Minority turnout had actually increased in the 2013 state election, the first election held with the new ID law in place.
What makes Ramos’ latest ruling so odd is that the amended law not only followed all guidelines set out by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, it also contained provisions that Ramos herself had found acceptable as an interim remedy for the November 2016 election.
Adding a new wrinkle, Ramos also ruled unacceptable a provision Texas adopted that has been part of federal law—and never challenged—since 2002.
Here’s why Ramos’ decision is likely to be reversed.
The original Texas law required voters to present a government-issued photo ID, and the state to provide a free ID to anyone who did not already have one. Ramos ruled this provision was discriminatory, and a split 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld her views on the discriminatory effect claim.
But the 5th Circuit remanded the case to Ramos, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support her conclusion that the legislature had a discriminatory purpose in passing the law.
Most importantly, the 5th Circuit held that, since the vast majority of Texas voters could meet the ID requirement, Ramos would have to tailor her remedy to rectify only the discriminatory effect on the very small number of voters who could not meet the ID requirement.
By throwing out the entire law, Ramos has blatantly ignored the 5th Circuit’s directive.
The 5th Circuit also found acceptable the section of prior Texas law that allowed “forms of identification like utility bills, bank statements, or paychecks.”
Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams are members of ACRU’s Policy Board.