Federal courts have reined in strict voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin, while a legal battle continues to rage over North Carolina’s rules mandating showing identification at the polls — even after lawmakers there took pre-emptive steps to soften them. The court ruling almost certainly won’t be enough for Democrat Hillary Clinton to win fiercely conservative Texas in November, and Wisconsin has been reliably blue enough in recent presidential cycles that the legal setback for its voter ID law may not prove decisive, either. North Carolina could be enough of a swing state that the fate of its election rules may have an impact — but exactly where its voter ID requirements will stand by Election Day on Nov. 8 remains to be seen. What is coming into clearer focus is just how hard it could be for Republican-controlled states to enforce tougher ballot box restrictions that energized conservative activists when they were approved in statehouses around the country in recent years. That means an issue that looked to be a slam dunk for the right following the rise of the tea party in 2010 may actually be little more than an afterthought during this year’s make-or-break presidential election.
“An unelected federal court struck down key components of Texas’ voter ID law against the will of the people,” said Texas state Sen. Charles Perry, a co-author of his state’s law.
More than 30 states have some form of voter ID rules. But prior to this week the measures in only nine — including Texas and Wisconsin — were considered especially restrictive. Republican statehouses have passed a flurry of voter ID laws in recent years, saying they help safeguard the integrity of the ballot box. But civil rights groups counter that the laws make it harder for poor and minority voters to cast ballots because they tend to support Democrats.
On Wednesday, a New Orleans-based federal appeals court ruled that Texas’ requiring voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification at the polls had a discriminatory effect on poor and minority Texans and had to be corrected.