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Federal Court Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law

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A federal judge has struck down a Texas voter ID law, saying the requirement that all voters show photo identification before casting a ballot amounted to a “poll tax” designed to suppress voter turnout among minorities.

U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote in an opinion released Thursday evening that “There has been a clear and disturbing pattern of discrimination in the name of combatting voter fraud in Texas,” and that the state hadn’t demonstrated that such fraud was widespread.

Gonzales said the evidence showed the proponents of the law “were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate.”

The 2012 law required voters to present a photo ID when voting in person, and backers said it was needed to combat voter fraud. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said it will immediately appeal Thursday’s ruling. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional so we are confident the Texas law will be upheld on appeal,” it said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hailed the decision, calling it a vindication. The Justice Department sued the state over the new law. "We are extremely heartened by the court's decision, which affirms our position that the Texas voter identification law unfairly and unnecessarily restricts access to the franchise,” Holder said in a statement.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the law was intended to restrict the voting rights of Texas’ growing minority communities. "The Court today effectively ruled that racial discrimination simply cannot spread to the ballot box," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the fund’s president.

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— Phil Helsel

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