A federal court on Thursday rejected a Texas law that would require voters to present photo IDs to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots in November.
A three-judge panel in Washington unanimously ruled that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the state will appeal and is confident of prevailing.
Abbott said the ruling was "wrong on the law" and stops Texas from using the same Election Day measures being used in Georgia and Indiana.
The decision involves an increasingly contentious political issue: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governors' offices, to impose strict identification requirements on voters.
Republicans are aggressively seeking the requirements in the name of stamping out voter fraud. Democrats, with support from a number of studies, say fraud at the polls is largely non-existent and that Republicans are simply trying to disenfranchise minorities, poor people and college students — all groups that tend to back Democrats.
In the Texas case, the Justice Department called several lawmakers, all of them Democrats, who said they detected a clear racial motive in the push for the voter ID law. Lawyers for Texas argued that the state was simply tightening its laws. Texas called experts who demonstrated that voter ID laws had a minimal effect on turnout. Republican lawmakers testified that the legislation was the result of a popular demand for more election protections.
The judges in the Texas case are Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of President George W. Bush; Robert Wilkins, an appointee of President Barack Obama; and David Tatel, an appeals court judge appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Tatel, writing for the panel, called the Texas law "the most stringent in the nation." He said it would impose a heavier burden on voters than a similar law in Indiana, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, and one in Georgia, which the Justice Department allowed to take effect without objection.
SA LULA representatives call move a victory
Locally, representatives with LULAC in San Antonio called the move a victory.
"In regards to Voter ID, they say it was an egregious violation that discriminated against not only the Latino Community, but poor Texans," said LULAC Representative Luis Vera Jr. "It's horrible."
Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, had testified before the D.C. district court on the Voter ID Case said today that Voter ID discriminates against minorities.
"Texas voter ID law should not stand because it's discriminatory," said Fischer. "And, while I'm proud on one hand, (about the decision) it's bittersweet because the year is 2012 and we are still fighting these types of institutional discrimination issues. "
The push for the Voter ID law in Texas has been backed largely by Republican-controlled legislatures, to impose strict identification requirements on voters.
Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn released this statement on Thursday:
"Though I'm disappointed in today's decision, the Supreme Court will have the final say as Texas fiGHTs to preserve the integrity of the voting process...."
with a commonsense, constitutional law vital to the health of our democracy."
Governor Rick Perry also released a statement:
"Chalk up another victory for fraud. Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections. The Obama Administration's claim that it's a burden to present a photo ID to vote simply defies common sense."
South Carolina ID law also on trial
The decision comes the same week that South Carolina's strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected before the November election.
During an appearance in Houston in July, Attorney General Eric Holder said Texas' photo ID requirement amounts to a poll tax, a term that harkens back to the days after Reconstruction when blacks across the South were stripped of their right to vote. The attorney general told the NAACP that many Texas voters seeking to cast ballots would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain the required photo ID.
Last December, South Carolina's voter ID requirement became the first such law to be rejected by the Justice Department in nearly 20 years. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the attorney general made a "very serious error" by blocking it. Romney said the requirement is easy to meet and will stem voter fraud.
"We don't want people voting multiple times" and "you can get a photo ID free from your state. You can get it at the time you register to vote," Romney said.