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  • A voter enters a polling station to cast his vote in the Texas Primary in Seguin on March 4, 2008.

    A voter enters a polling station to cast his vote in the Texas Primary in Seguin on March 4, 2008. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 August 2015

The U.S. Justice Department said that at least 600,000 people were prevented from voting as result of the Texas voter ID law.

A U.S. appeals court struck down the Texas's Voter ID law Wednesday which required the state’s registered voters to show an authorized identification in order to be able to cast their vote.

The decision is hailed as a major win for minorities in Texas and a blow for right-wing efforts to consolidate power in the mostly-Republican southern states of the country.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, described as one of the most conservative courts in the nation as it is led by an appointee of former Republican President George W. Bush, argued that the Texas voter law violated the country's Voting Rights Act on “discriminatory basis.”

"We affirm the district court's finding that SB 14 (Texas Senate Bill 14) violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act through its discriminatory effect," a three-judge panel from the New Orleans-based court said in a statement.

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While supporters of the law, who are mostly right-wing lawmakers and Republican pundits, say that it helps prevent voting fraud, several surveys have indicated that cases of election fraud are insignificant and would not warrant such a law.

According to the Think Progress website, a Wisconsin state study, for example, found just seven cases of fraud out of 3 million votes cast during the 2004 election, and none of these seven cases were the kind of in-person voter fraud that is supposedly prevented by a voter ID law.

Similarly, an investigation by former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) found zero cases of in-person voter fraud over the course of several elections.

Thus, opponents of the law, including Democratic politicians and lawmakers, say that the law serves to discriminate against minorities in the southern states who normally vote for the Democratic Party in the U.S..

Black and Hispanic registered voters normally are unable to provide one of the seven photo IDs required, which includes driver licenses, military IDs, passports or concealed carry licenses. The law, however, does not recognize university photo IDs as an approved ID.

The Justice Department had argued that the Texas law would prevent as many as 600,000 voters from casting a ballot because they lacked one of the seven forms of approved ID.

Other Republican-controlled states, including Wisconsin and North Carolina, have passed similar voter ID measures in recent years, but the Texas law signed by then-Governor Rick Perry, a failed Republican presidential campaigner in the 2012 elections who is running again this year, is widely viewed as one of the nation’s toughest because of its only seven approved forms of identification.

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The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a brief in the case to strike down the law, hailed the decision that came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

"It is fitting for the court to recognize that laws that deliberately make it harder for black and Latino Americans to vote have no place in our democracy," said Sean Young, a staff attorney at the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

The Voting Rights Act, which was approved at the height of the American Civil Rights movement on Aug. 6, 1965, contained a provision, known as Section 5, which had forced certain state and local governments, including Texas, to get pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting laws to ensure they were free of discrimination.

This provision was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, paving the way for Republican-governed states to pass voting laws that would require photo IDs.

Therefore, in order to fight the Texas law, the plaintiffs had to use Section 2 of the Voting Act, which prohibits the discrimination against minorities, to convince the court to strike down the law.  

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