The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been severely limited in its power due to earlier Supreme Court decisions that came down in State favor in determining the Federal government had little power to oversee the voting process at the polls. Since then, many states including Texas have moved to enact voter ID laws. These laws demand the presentation of accepted ID to prove the right to vote. Civil rights advocates had challenged these laws as racially discriminatory and discriminatory against minority and poor populations as the ID that is accepted is not easily attained by those who are impoverished. In early August of 2015, a federal appeals court review the Texas Voter ID law and ruled that it discriminated against black and Hispanic voters in the state.
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The justification for the claim of discrimination
The appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs claim that access to records and documents needed to procure the declared acceptable forms of identification presented unfair hardship to black and Hispanics in Texas. The majority of the discrimination was found to be economic in nature and affects those in poverty of all races. The cost alone of procuring a passport or driver’s license at minimum is far above the means of many people in Texas. To require that residents must go through these processes to gain accepted identification clearly represented a discrimination against certain Texans in an economic class that in the state is comprised of mostly black and Hispanic residents.
Is the law overturned?
The tricky part about the decision is that the law itself is not over turned. The appeals court has struck the provision defining identification and instructed the state to amend the law to include a definition that is not considered discriminatory. For other states that are facing similar actions in court this can be an early warning sign for the direction their appeals will go. State advocates say it is too late in an election year to change the law completely and have not offered any significant solution for changing ID requirements.
Where will this lead when elections occur?
When the Supreme Court blocked the Voting Rights Act provision for federal oversight of state election processes it was feared that one of the major achievements of the Civil Rights era had been undone. With this decision from the federal appeals court concerning the Texas Voter ID Act there is hope among advocates that power is being restored to the 1965 law. When elections do come to happen in states with similar laws there is a potential for a lengthy legal tie-up concerning the results. Unless states with similar acts take the proactive measure of changing the ID requirements, election results could be questioned. The length of time it would take for all of the Voter ID laws to be heard by the court of appeals makes having an answer before the elections unreasonable. If the challenges are bought it could create a block to the successful inauguration of many state senators, representatives and even the new President of the United States.
The tact advocates are taking
In an effort to circumvent this potential critical log jam, many advocates are filing motions that only challenge the specificity of the ID requirements using the appeals finding on the Texas Voter ID Act as their precedent. If the state courts adhere to the federal appeals ruling as guidance, a potentially disastrous election season can be avoided. Advocates of voter ID laws that want to preserve the present requirements are gearing up to defend the specifications as well.