Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas’ photo ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by discriminating against African American and Latino voters. And the day before, a federal court in Wisconsin barred the state from requiring voters to comply with strict photo ID requirements, allowing people to vote in November by signing an affidavit. Liz Kennedy, Director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
This is a great week for voting rights in America. The freedom to vote for 1.2 million eligible Texas citizens who lack the specific forms of identification required by Texas’ strict photo ID law, including 600,000 citizens already registered to vote, was vindicated. African American and Latino voters were much less likely to have one of the few forms of approved identification and were disproportionately affected by the law. In fact, earlier in the litigation, the trial court had found that Texas’ strict photo ID was intentionally racially discriminatory. This law should never have gone into effect, and was only allowed after major protections of the Voting Rights Act were removed by the Supreme Court three years ago in Shelby County v. Holder. We are glad that the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down this racially discriminatory, voter suppressive law and suggested people should be able to cast their vote upon signing affidavits.
Similarly, we are delighted that also this week, a federal court in Wisconsin ruled that people who encounter difficulty obtaining identification under that state’s strict photo ID law can sign an affidavit and vote a regular ballot in November. When Wisconsin’s strict photo ID law was passed, it was found that 9 percent of registered voters did not possess a government ID, and experts testified at the trial that 300,000 eligible voters could be stripped of their right to vote. Since the requirements started, the state has rejected almost 20 percent of those applying for voter ID, a startling 85 percent of whom are African American, Latino, or Native American.
This kind of discriminatory voter suppression, while it has a long disgraceful history, has no place in 21st century American elections. There is no legitimate reason for burdensome and discriminatory strict photo ID laws, which keep Americans from having their voices heard at the polls to make decisions about the issues facing our families and future. Real election integrity depends on the ability of every eligible American to cast a ballot that will be counted.
Center for American Progress experts are available to speak on this topic. For more information, please contact Tanya Arditi at gro.ssergorpnacirema@itidrat or 202-741-6258.