Texas will have to engage in a “meaningful” education campaign about its beleaguered voter ID law and some people lacking required photo identification may be allowed to once again use voter registration cards to cast ballots in the November election, a federal judge said Thursday. In a two-page order, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi provided the first blueprint for potential fixes for Texas’ voter ID measure – one day after a federal appeals court said the law violates federal protections against discrimination at the ballot box. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, largely considered one of the most conservative courts in the country, dealt Texas Republicans a big hit in ruling that the law violates a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The court sent the case back to Ramos, who ruled last year the law flouts federal protections for blacks and Hispanics. She was ordered to make changes before the presidential election to ensure it no longer unfairly harms poor and minority Texas residents.
Democrats and minority groups estimate more than 600,000 registered Texas voters, or about 4.5 percent of all registered voters in the state, were disenfranchised under the law because they did not have an acceptable form of identification.
The potential menu of options to remedy the measure ahead of the presidential election is vast, according to lawyers suing the state. A hearing to decide the matter has been scheduled for Aug. 17.
Gonzales, however, narrowed the criteria for acceptable changes in her order, saying temporary fixes “must include” elements such as a safety net for people with an “impediment or indigency exception” who can’t obtain one of the seven approved photo IDs needed to vote. One potential solution on that front, Ramos wrote, is to revert back to a system of allowing voter registration cards to pass as acceptable ID for such voters.