Fifth Circuit Finds Texas Voter Photo ID Law Violates Voting Rights Act

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Today in Veasey v. Abbott, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Texas Voter Photo ID law is discriminatory and in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Attorneys at the Campaign Legal Center serve as co-counsel for plaintiffs Congressman Marc Veasey, LULAC, and a group of Texas voters.            

“This is a great victory for the hundreds of thousands of Texans disenfranchised by this discriminatory law,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center.   "This historic ruling marks the first time that a U.S. Court of Appeals has found a voter ID law in violation of the Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court’s disastrous Shelby County decision struck down Section 5 of the VRA.”

The Fifth Circuit also remanded the case to the U.S. District Court for further findings on the law’s discriminatory purpose and for a remedy to cure the proven violation of the Voting Rights Act. 

The first challenge (Veasey v. Perry) to the Texas photo ID law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center and others in the summer of 2013 claiming that SB 14 violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Several additional challenges were then brought against the Texas law (including one by the United States).  All of the cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.

Following a two week trial in October 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos enjoined SB 14, finding that it was as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote as well as an unconstitutional poll tax, had “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”  The state defendants immediately appealed Judge Ramos’ decision. In mid-October, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision solely to avoid confusion in the November 2014 elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay.  

The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing the Veasey-LULAC plaintiffs that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner & Altman), and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC).

To read the Circuit Court decision, click here.

To read the Legal Center’s brief, click here