The Collegian
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Texas voter identification law to remain in effect pending appeal

Texas will continue enforcing stringent voter identification requirements in the coming midterm elections despite a recent ruling that declared the law unconstitutional.

Enacted in 2011, Senate Bill 14 requires Texans to show one of seven eligible types of state-issued ID at the polls. The statute was struck down by a district court earlier this month on the grounds that it was designed to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics.

According to The New York Times, if the lower court’s finding of intentional discrimination is ultimately upheld, it could trigger new federal oversight of Texas election procedures.

Despite the lower court’s ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Oct. 14 to allow Texas to continue implementing the law during the November elections. The appeals court argued that a technical change made so close to election time could confuse voters.

Tori Barbino, president of the University of Richmond College Republicans, was asked for her opinion regarding the Texas voter ID law. 

“Because voter registration deadlines are quickly approaching or passed, it is important to maintain stability to keep the trust of voters and encourage voting without last-minute confusion,” Barbino said.

When asked if the law should be upheld on appeal, she said: “the continued use of voter ID laws would help the voters in Texas have a fair system that accurately represent[ed] the American citizens living in the area.”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg published a dissent on Oct. 18, categorizing the bill as one “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose,” and firmly stated that she would have sustained the district court ruling despite the impending election.

“More than 400,000 eligible voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more [to obtain correct identification],” Ginsburg said.

Although birth certificates offered by the state for electoral purposes can be obtained for $2, Ginsburg said this cost puts Senate Bill 14 also at odds with a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting state poll taxes in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections.

While some fear that the Texas voter ID requirements will suppress votes, particularly among minorities, recent polling data may suggest otherwise.

Every two years, Texas holds constitutional amendment elections to give its citizens the ability to review items put up for a vote by state legislature. According to CNN, voter turnout in the 2011 election before Senate Bill 14 became effective accounted for 5.37 percent of registered voters; in 2013 it was around 8 percent.

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CNN also reported that even Hidalgo County, which runs along the Southwest border and has a 90 percent Hispanic population, saw a large increase in voter turnout in 2013 despite the strict voter ID regulations. The same trend was found in Cameron County, which is 85 percent Hispanic.

It is yet to be seen whether Senate Bill 14 will be struck down by the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, but voter turnout for the Nov. 4 midterm will no doubt play a role in the final decision.

Contact reporter Adam Gibson at adam.gibson@richmond.edu

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