A federal appeals court upheld Texas’ voter identification law on Friday, saying that it does not discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, overturned a lower-court ruling that had struck down the law. It was the latest milestone in a years long legal battle over the state’s efforts to require voters to show government-issued identification in order to cast a ballot. The panel’s decision, by a vote of 2 to 1, was the first time a federal court had upheld the law, a revamped version of one of the toughest voter ID restrictions in the country.
The original law, which was known as Senate Bill 14 and was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature in 2011, required voters to show a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. The law took effect in 2013, and it was found by the same federal appellate court to have a discriminatory effect on black and Hispanic voters, many of whom lack government-issued photo ID.
The Legislature then loosened the restrictions last year by passing a new law, known as Senate Bill 5, that allowed voters who lacked one of the seven approved forms of ID to cast a ballot if they signed an affidavit stating why they could not obtain an approved ID. Those voters must show an alternative form of identification, including a utility bill or a bank statement.