From Wisconsin State Journal:
10 October 2014 Last updated at 11:14 ET
Courts reject Texas and Wisconsin voter ID laws
Two US courts have struck down largely Republican-backed voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin just weeks before November's midterm elections.
Critics have argued the laws are illegal poll taxes on the poor, often racial minorities who lean Democratic.
The ruling could spare millions of registered voters in both states from being forced to acquire photo ID in order to cast their ballots.
The Texas Republican attorney general has vowed to appeal against the ruling.
Considered one of the harshest laws in the nation, the Texas law was previously derided by the US Department of Justice as blatant discrimination.
"We are extremely heartened by the court's decision, which affirms our position that the Texas voter identification law unfairly and unnecessarily restricts access," US Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a statement. `
"We are also pleased that the Supreme Court has refused to allow Wisconsin to implement its own restrictive voter identification law."
Both laws were approved in 2011 and have become political flashpoints.
On Thursday, US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramosf ruled the Texas law "creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose".
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has said it plans to appeal against he ruling, but until then the state will revert to election laws predating the 2011 voter ID law.
Also on Thursday, the US Supreme Court issued a one-page order blocking implementation of Wisconsin's voter ID law.
Election Day is three weeks off, and Republican officials and legislators around the country are battling down to the wire to preserve strict and discriminatory new voting laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court — no friend to expansive voting rights — stepped in and blocked one of the worst laws, a Wisconsin statute requiring voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. A federal judge hadstruck it down in April, saying it would disproportionately prevent voting by poorer and minority citizens. Last month, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit allowedit to go into effect, even though thousands of absentee ballots had been sent out under the old rules.
There was sure to be chaos if the justices had not stayed that appeals court ruling, and their decision appears to be based on the risk of changing voting rules so close to an election. But they could still vote to uphold the law should they decide to review its constitutionality.
Similar laws have been aggressively pushed in many states by Republican lawmakers who say they are preventing voter fraud, promoting electoral “integrity” and increasing voter turnout. None of that is true. There is virtually no in-person voter fraud; the purpose of these laws is to suppress voting.
In Texas, where last week a federal judge struck downwhat she called the most restrictive voter ID law in the country, there were two convictions for in-person voter impersonation in one 10-year period. During that time, 20 million votes were cast. Nor is there any evidence that these laws encourage more voters to come to the polls. Instead, in at least two states — Kentucky and Tennessee — they appear to have reduced turnout by 2 percent to 3 percent, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office.
Voter ID laws, as their supporters know, do only one thing very well: They keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls. In most cases, this means voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don’t have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs.
In her remarkable 143-page opinion in the Texas case, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the law violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act, and that by forcing registered voters to track down and pay for qualifying documents, it functioned as an “unconstitutional poll tax.”
Most striking of all, Judge Ramos found that the rapid growth of Texas’s Latino and black population, and the state’s