On Tuesday a federal appeals court will take a second look at Texas’ controversial voter ID law. It’s one of the biggest voting rights battles ahead of this year’s presidential election, and a ruling from this court could be a final say on whether the state’s law is in violation of the Voting Rights Act. This will be the second time the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case Veasey v. Abbott. This time, all 15 active judges on the court will weigh in. The case was brought by a coalition of Texas voters and civil rights groups who say a state law requiring photo ID at the polls is unconstitutional. “It’s the first major case that has gone up on appeal to challenge a voter ID law based on Section Two of the Voting Rights Act,” says UT law Professor Joseph Fishkin.“So, that’s a different kind of claim, and it’s a claim that’s specifically about whether the law hurts racial minorities to elect their candidates of choice.”
Politics Professor Daniel Smith of the University of Florida has done extensive research on how voting laws affect voter turnout during elections. “I think it’s very clear that if you look at Texas as well as all the other states that have adopted these very strict photo ID laws for in-person voting, that it is going to have a depressing effect on the ability of some individuals to turn out to vote.”
Smith says there are a lot of hidden costs when lawmakers restrict what kind of ID you can show at the polls. For one, he says, the Texas law makes it harder for college students to vote because the short list of accepted photo IDs doesn’t include school IDs, and Smith says that’s not the only example.