The Texas House and Senate have approved a deal to relax the state’s voter identification requirements, meaning the closely watched legislation now only awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval. The Republican is expected to sign Senate Bill 5, capping a flurry of late activity that pushed the legislation to the finish line after some state leaders feared its demise — and legal consequences from inaction. The House approved the compromise bill Sunday in a 92-56 vote — one day after the Senate backed the deal along party lines.Sen. Joan Huffman’s bill, which would soften voter ID requirements once considered strictest in the nation, responds to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters.
Last year, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas lawmakers discriminated against minority voters by enacting the 2011 law. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos went further in April, ruling the state discriminated on purpose. That raised the possibility she could invoke a section of the Voting Rights Act to place Texas under federal oversight of its election laws — a process called preclearance.
The state’s lawyers want to point to SB 5 next month when they return to Ramos’ Corpus Christi court for a hearing on how to remedy the voting violations. Republican leaders hope she will accept the new law and refrain from putting Texas under preclearance.