Appeals court weighs intent of Texas’ strict voter ID law

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A strict Texas voter ID law with a complicated legal history has been remedied with a provision that allows people who lack a required photo ID to vote if they sign an affidavit stating there was a reasonable impediment to them getting one, the state’s solicitor general told a federal appeals court panel Tuesday in New Orleans.

The change renders moot any arguments against the law, passed in 2011 and reworked by the Texas Legislature in May after years of litigation, Scott Keller told a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The new law eliminates “any lingering burden” on voters who for some reason cannot obtain an ID, Keller said. The reworked version also created potential criminal punishments for anyone lying on the affidavit.

Tuesday’s hearing came after the same Texas-based federal judge who blocked the tougher 2011 version of the law blocked the new version in August.

Opponents of the law said the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos should be upheld. They echoed Ramos’ ruling that the law still requires IDs more likely to be possessed by white voters than Latinos or African-Americans.

The new law clarified that both U.S. passport books and cards would be accepted. But it didn’t expand the list of seven acceptable IDs beyond those in the 2011 version of a law that critics said was the toughest voter ID law in the country.

Gonzales Ramos, who had likened the 2011 law to a “poll tax” on minority voters, said new criminal penalties for lying on the affidavit could scare away voters fearful of making an innocent mistake on the form.

Janai Nelson, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, raised similar concerns Tuesday, saying the affidavit’s warning could have a “chilling effect” on some minority voters.

“It takes back the very remedy that the state has provided,” she told the panel.

Judge Edith Jones frequently challenged the opponents — at one point noting that there was no evidence, amid “thousands of pages” documenting legislative work on the law, that discrimination was intended.

San Marcos Daily Record

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