Texas Voter ID Law Ruled A 'Poll Tax,' Battle Isn't Over

Two major rulings on the same day struck down voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin, but the Texas attorney general already says he'll appeal.

Texas Voter ID Law Ruled A 'Poll Tax,' Battle Isn't Over
Getty Images / Tom Pennington

Texas voters will not have to show a photo ID to vote in November's midterm elections. A federal judge struck down a controversial state law Thursday night.

The voter ID law caught heavy criticism from civil rights activists who said it unfairly targeted minorities and the poor, and the judge agreed, using language more commonly associated with history books.

KXAN ANCHOR: "It also calls the law an unconstitutional poll tax."

KRIV ANCHOR: "Calling it an unconstitutional poll tax that discriminates against African-Americans and Hispanic citizens."

In fact, in her 147-page ruling, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled the requirement to present photo ID at the polls in Texas was passed "with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."

Supporters of the voter ID law have said it would ensure security of ballots and prevent voter fraud.

The Texas attorney general's office issued a statement almost immediately saying it would appeal the decision.

"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."

Well, maybe not.

Also on Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court's decision and blocked Wisconsin from implementing a similar voter photo ID law for this November's election.

Attorneys who challenged Texas' law argued there's little evidence of the kind of voter fraud the law was meant to protect against. Critics also pointed out the law didn't just make it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote.

In an op-ed for MSNBC last year, the presidents of two civil rights organizations pointed out recent stats indicate 34 percent of women in Texas don't have an ID that reflects their current legal name, meaning they'd have to provide both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce or name change.

The presidents wrote that's "a task that is particularly onerous for elderly women and costly for poor women who may have to pay to access these records."

Texas was also at odds with the Justice Department, which argued the law affected 600,000 registered voters — mostly blacks and Hispanics — who don't have a valid government-issued ID. Attorney General Eric Holder recorded a statement about voting restrictions in several states earlier this week.

U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: "Throughout our nation's history, we have repeatedly seen that there is simply no good reason, no good reason to reduce voting access."

Prior to Thursday's rulings, the National Conference of State Legislatures listed nine states with the strictest version of a photo ID law for voters.

Besides the announcement it would appeal, the Texas attorney general's office also said Judge Gonzales Ramos' ruling left voters in a confusing position leading up to the November polls.

This video includes images from Getty Images.