After years of defending a 2011 voter ID law in court, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law Thursday changes to the ID scheme that weakened the requirements. The signed legislation, in effect, codifies a court-ordered agreement watering down the 2011 law, which was deemed by many the as toughest in the nation and had been struck down by multiple courts.
Under the new ID scheme, voters who don’t have one of the acceptable photo IDs can still vote if they show some other form of identification — like a utility bill or a bank statement — with their name and address. They also have to sign an affidavit confirming that they faced a “reasonable impediment” to acquiring the photo ID.
Texas Democrats are not happy with the stiff penalty, that included the possibility of jail time, imposed if it’s found someone lied in signing the affidavit. Meanwhile, the governor’s office also filed court documents Thursday night in the ongoing litigation around the 2011 law arguing that the new tweaks mean courts should no longer consider putting Texas under the process under the Voting Rights Act known as pre-clearance, which would require the state to get federal approval for any changes to its election policies.
Nonetheless, the passage of the law weakening the ID requirements represents a win for voting rights advocates, as Texas at least for now backs down from its efforts to implement the restrictive law.
After the GOP-led Texas legislature passed the law in 2011, it was blocked twice by the pre-clearance process. However, a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutted the VRA formula that had put Texas and other states under the pre-clearance process, a ruling that allowed Texas to implement the law. But over the course a years-long legal battle, multiple courts, including the very conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the law had the effect of discriminating against minority voters.
A district court has twice said the law was passed with the intent of discrimination, which puts Texas at risk of being placed back under pre-clearance under a separate VRA provision that remains fully intact.
Abbott on Thursday also signed a law banning straight-party voting, which Texas Democrats opposed.