A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Texas’s strict voter-ID law discriminates against minority voters, and it ordered a lower court to come up with a fix for the law in time for the November elections. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, one of the most conservative in the country, declined to strike down the law completely but said provisions must be made to allow those who lack the specific ID the law requires to be able to cast a vote. Nine of the 15 appellate judges who heard the case generally upheld a district court’s finding that 600,000 people, disproportionately minorities, lack the specific kind of identification required — a driver’s license, military ID, passport or weapons permit, among them — and that it would be difficult for many to secure it. African American, Hispanic and poor voters were most likely to be affected, the court found. “It would be untenable to permit a law with a discriminatory effect to remain in operation” for the coming election, wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Catharina Haynes for the majority, made of up five judges nominated by Democratic presidents and four nominated by Republicans.
Those who possess the necessary ID must show it to vote in November, Haynes wrote. But she said the district court judge who first heard the case should fashion a remedy to rectify “the discriminatory effect on those voters who do not have . . . ID or are unable to reasonably obtain such identification.”
That was similar to a federal judge’s decision Tuesday that voters in Wisconsin who have trouble meeting that state’s voter-ID requirements should still be allowed to vote by signing an affidavit attesting to the voter’s identity.
Every judge who has considered the Texas law has found it discriminatory, but it still has been used in elections there. Challengers to the law had asked the Supreme Court to stop the law from being used in November, and the high court had given the 5th Circuit a Wednesday deadline to make its own decision about the law. Texas could appeal the 5th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. But the high court is split 4 to 4 on ideological grounds, and it would require the vote of five to overturn the circuit court decision.