Amid efforts to prove Texas’ embattled voter ID law is discriminatory, a federal appeals panel on Friday OK’d state lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite the law last year to address faults previously identified by the courts. On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that tossed out the state’s revisions through Senate Bill 5. The lower court had said the changes did not absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against voters of color when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011. But the Legislature “succeeded in its goal” of addressing flaws in the voter ID law in 2017, Judge Edith Jones wrote in the majority opinion for the divided panel, and the lower court acted prematurely when it “abused its discretion” in ruling to invalidate SB 5.
The 5th Circuit panel’s ruling is a major victory for the state after years of losses in an almost seven-year legal battle over its restrictions on what forms of identification are accepted at the polls.
The battle dates back to 2011, when lawmakers first passed the voter ID restrictions. A separate three-judge panel and then the full 5th Circuit — which is considered to be among the country’s most conservative appellate courts — previously agreed with U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that the 2011 law disproportionately burdened voters of color who are less likely to have one of the seven forms of identification the state required them to show at the polls.