Voter-identification laws are suddenly in peril. In agreeing Wednesday to relax its voter-ID requirements for the November election, Texas showed how far the legal climate has shifted with respect to the wave of state laws enacted over the last decade. The accord came less than two weeks after a federal appeals court said Texas’s ID law was racially discriminatory. Only two years ago, a divided Supreme Court let the Texas law take effect for the 2014 election. That was before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left the high court without a reliable majority to uphold ID laws. It was also before opponents in some lawsuits had a chance to marshal their evidence against the measures. With evidence in hand, courts also blocked voting restrictions of various types in North Carolina, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Ohio over the past two weeks.
“The last week or so has demonstrated that the tide has turned on these cases,” said Danielle Lang, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington and part of the legal team that fought the Texas law. “Litigants and advocates have built really strong records to demonstrate the burdens of these laws.”
Even with the latest rulings, 15 states will have new voting restrictions for the first time in a presidential election this year, according to New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, which opposes many of the changes. Supporters of the measures say they are valuable tools to prevent voter fraud.