Texas' controversial voter-identification law was struck down unanimously today by a three judge panel. The court held that the law violates civil-rights protections by putting an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. This is a major setback for Republicans on a key legal fight leading up to November elections.
A number of states, including Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, have passed laws tightening identification requirements for in-person voting. The Texas law would require a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or gun permit, but wouldn't allow a student ID for purposes of voting.
In a 56-page ruling, the panel of three federal judges in District Court in Washington, D.C., said the burdens of the law "will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
The court noted that its ruling was narrowly addressed to the Texas law and shouldn't be read as a broad denunciation of other states' voter-ID laws. In particular, it noted that the Obama administration has approved Georgia's version of a voter-ID law, specifically because that law will issue free identification cards to voters.
Democrats and Republicans have been sparring this election season about the issue of voter fraud. GOP lawyers argue potential fraud is a threat to free and fair elections, while Democrats say that in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare and that adding new requirements to voting would have the effect of disenfranchising poor and minority voters.